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African Union extends peacekeeping in Sudan

Associated Press
Published March 11, 2006

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - The African Union decided Friday to extend its peacekeeping mission in Sudan's Darfur region for six months to give itself time to negotiate a peace agreement, but it promised to transfer control to the United Nations once that is accomplished.

The compromise will disappoint Western leaders who wanted the United Nations to take over and reinforce the beleaguered African Union force as soon as possible. But Sudanese officials also lost their bid to keep the United Nations from ever assuming control of the mission.

At least 180,000 people have died - some estimates are far higher - and some 2-million have been displaced since the start of a 2003 revolt by rebels from Darfur's ethnic African population. The Arab-dominated Sudanese government is alleged to have responded to the revolt by unleashing Arab militias, who carried out sweeping atrocities against ethnic African villagers.

Speaking on behalf of the African Union's Peace and Security Council, Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs Seyoum Mesfin called on all sides in the Darfur conflict to reach a peace agreement by April 30. The African Union is mediating peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria, which have stalled in recent months because of a power struggle within the Darfur rebel movement.

The 7,000-member African Union force has faced severe funding and logistical problems, and its mandate was to have expired at the end of March. Mesfin said the bloc could hand over the mission to the United Nations after the next mandate expires on Sept. 30.

Details will be worked out at the next Peace and Security Council meeting, Mesfin said.

The AU also will continue to work on bringing greater security to Darfur and address the current dispute between Sudan and Chad, which borders the Darfur region.

[Last modified March 11, 2006, 01:44:48]

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