Senior UN and AU officials opened unprecedented talks in Khartoum today, to convince the government to accept UN peacekeeping troops in Darfur, Reuters
reported - excerpt:
"The United Nations never imposes itself on any country," UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie Guehenno told reporters after the joint team met Foreign Minister Lam Akol.
"All our peacekeeping operations in Africa are deployed with the cooperation of the host country."
Guehenno's heading of the joint U.N.-AU technical mission was unprecedented, UN officials said. His counterpart in the African Union, Said Djinnit, headed his delegation.
Sudan rejects UN transition in Darfur, painting the picture of a Western invasion that would attract jihadi militants. Al Qaeda Islamist Ayman al-Zawahri on Friday criticised a "spineless" Khartoum for even allowing the assessment mission to enter Sudan.
Akol said military and other technical experts from the team would be leaving for Darfur on Tuesday. Asked if the Sudanese government's position had changed, he said: "Any decisions of any sort will be taken after that," referring to the team's trip to Darfur.
The joint mission will return to Khartoum for further talks after visiting Darfur. The mission, which arrived on Friday, is expected to last around 18 days.
Akol said the joint team could not tell Khartoum what the mandate and aim of a possible U.N. mission in Darfur would be until after they had visited the region and assessed what was required.
But the United Nations would have to move fast. The AU has a mandate only until September 30 and is struggling to find funds to sustain the mission until then.
Asked if the AU mandate could be extended, Djinnit said it was too early to say. "It depends ... how soon the United Nations will be ready to take over ... once all the conditions are met for that mission to take over the African mission in Sudan (AMIS)," he said.
The mission's more pressing role is to assess what extra the AU needs ahead of transition to help implement a May 5 Darfur peace deal. It will likely send at least 3,000 more troops.
"It has to do with what needs to be done as a matter of urgency for AMIS to be able to perform its responsibilities," Djinnit said of the team's visit.
"It has huge responsibilities to maintain peace and to help in the implementation of the Darfur peace agreement," he said.
Important note: The report points out that analysts say what Sudan really fears is UN troops may be used to arrest officials or militia leaders likely to be indicted by the International Criminal Court investigating war crimes in Darfur. This is what I believe all the fear is really based on. Can you blame them? Me neither. Somehow, I believe the politicians will find a way of dropping the ICC stick by using it as a trade off for agreeing peace, disarmament and reconciliation using local traditions and customs.