Sudan actions cast doubt on peace force-UN official

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UNITED NATIONS, Nov 28 (Reuters) A series of obstacles raised by Sudan is putting in doubt the planned deployment of a peacekeeping force for Darfur, the UN peacekeeping chief said.

Jean-Marie Guehenno told the Security Council Khartoum's reluctance to smooth the path for dispatching the 26,000-strong UN-African Union mission meant a decision might eventually have to be taken on whether to go through with the deployment.

Problems detailed by Guehenno included Sudan's objections to some non-African units, failure to provide land, curbs on helicopter flights and quest for a status of forces pact that ''would make it impossible for the mission to operate.'' Those actions cast doubt on Sudan's past promises to facilitate the deployment of the ''hybrid'' force in the war-torn region, he said yesterday.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was calling on Security Council members and regional leaders to persuade Sudan's government to make a ''strategic decision'' to support deployment of the UNAMID force it has already agreed to, Guehenno said.

''Should the anticipated discussions fail to clear the path to the deployment of an effective force, the international community will be confronted with hard choices,'' Guehenno said.

''Do we move ahead with the deployment of a force that will not make a difference, that will not have the capability to defend itself, and that carries the risk of humiliation of the Security Council and the United Nations, and tragic failure for the people of Darfur?'' The peacekeepers are supposed to take over from an existing AU force in Darfur from January and bring security to its people after more than 4-1/2 years of conflict.

Statements by Sudanese officials ''create serious uncertainty with regard to the government's commitment to the deployment of UNAMID,'' Guehenno said.

His criticisms were not limited to Khartoum. Five weeks before UNAMID was due to take over from an ineffective and much smaller AU force, contributing countries had still not come up with essential helicopter and transport units, he said.

Guehenno also castigated two Darfur rebel groups for making threats against a Chinese engineering unit, part of which has already arrived in Darfur.

Sudan's UN Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem told the Security Council that discussions on the composition of UNAMID should take place in three-way talks between Sudan, the United Nations and the AU, and not in the council.

He said the question had to be resolved in line with agreements that the force would be African in character and ''taking into consideration Sudan's concerns'', and said administrative problems should not be exaggerated.

Reuters AK VP0430

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