Top peacekeeping official says internally displaced in Sudan want UN force in

Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno made his comments at a press conference in Sudan on Thursday, the final day of a joint UN-African Union (AU) mission that has been holding talks with government officials, regional leaders, IDP representatives and others in efforts to strengthen the AU force already in the region (AMIS), as well as prepare for its possible transition to a full-fledged UN operation.“Our assurances are that the UN as well as the African Union does not take sides. It only takes the side of the United Nations that is to work for peace…IDPs representing hundreds and thousands of people said that they wanted a deployment of United Nations troops so we did our best to develop plans to satisfy all the people of Darfur,” Mr. Guéhenno told reporters.But he also acknowledged that Sudan’s Government has so far rejected any idea of a UN force taking over from the AU, although he stressed that humanitarian concerns should be at the forefront of discussions regarding such a force.“Let us not try to get into polemics but try to bring an end to the suffering of the people of Sudan. If we don’t do that, I think history will be very hard on those who would not have done everything to bring an end to that suffering.”In a related development, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters in New York that “dialogue continues” regarding a possible UN force for Darfur, adding also that he was looking forward to meeting Sudan President Omer Hassan Al-Bashir next week.“We have not got the agreement of the Sudanese Government yet, but the dialogue continues, and I look forward to seeing him again at the African Union summit in Banjul [Gambia] next week. I hope we will be able to pursue the discussion, not only with me, but with other African leaders.”“I have tried to get across the message that we are coming in to help the Sudanese authorities and the people of Sudan, the people in Darfur, and quite honestly, if they had been protected, the question of UN deployment would not be necessary,” he pointed out.Three years of fighting in Darfur between Government forces, pro-government militias and rebels have killed scores of thousands of people and displaced more than 2 million others amid charges of civilian massacre, rape and other atrocities. read more