South African President Thabo Mbeki will visit Sudan on June 20, hoping to press Khartoum to approve a UN takeover of an AU peacekeeping operation there, a senior government official said on June 13. Reuters SA
Mbeki's one-day visit would include talks with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and First Vice-President Salva Kiir, Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad said.
"This will be a good opportunity for the president ... to discuss progress made," Pahad told reporters. He said Mbeki's visit would seek ways to strengthen implementation of Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
However, he said Mbeki would also press Khartoum to agree to an AU proposal to allow the UN to take over in Darfur. "You cannot manage without it (a UN presence)," Pahad said. "The situation is grave."
Pahad said South Africa hoped most of the peacekeepers would still come from African countries, which could allay what analysts say are Sudanese fears that a UN force would seek to arrest officials and government-allied militia leaders likely to be indicted by the International Criminal Court investigating alleged war crimes.
He said Pretoria, which itself has 437 troops in the AU force in Darfur, believed that only the UN would have the resources needed to mount an effective peacekeeping operation.
A senior UN official, in Sudan on a week-long mission seeking to plan for a possible transition, said on Monday that UN troops would not be able to deploy in Darfur before January 2007, making it likely that the AU force would remain in the country beyond its Sept 30 mandate.