Sunday, June 17, 2007

Chad may allow peacekeepers on Sudan border

Source: CNN, June 12, 2007.

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- Chad may allow international peacekeeping troops to deploy along its border with Sudan to create safe passage for humanitarian aid to the war-torn Darfur region, the president of the African country said Tuesday.

President Idriss Deby said Chad was under intense international pressure to accept such a plan, but he wouldn't provide specifics nor confirm if he would allow U.N. troops to be deployed on Chad's border.

"Chad is a poor country, and it cannot stand up to the pressures by the world's major powers and the United Nations," Deby told reporters in Cairo after talks with the Arab League's top diplomats.

"In the past, we refused the international troops, but now the situation does not allow that, and if there will be further deterioration, we won't be able to resist," he said.

Deby said Arab and African countries have failed to put an end to the humanitarian disaster in Darfur, where more than 200,000 [400,000] people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in four years of fighting between the government and regional rebels.

The Chadian president's comments come as a senior African Union official said after a meeting in Ethiopia that Sudan accepted a revised plan for a joint African Union and U.N. peacekeeping force of between 17,000 and 19,000 troops that would replace an ill-equipped and understaffed AU force currently deployed in Darfur.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir agreed to a "hybrid" force in November but later backtracked on his approval. During a visit to Sudan on Monday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that al-Bashir told him he fully agreed to the proposed "hybrid" force but was adamant that all of the troops must come from Africa.

As part of France's efforts to boost diplomatic efforts on Darfur, Paris has announced it plans to host an international conference on Darfur later this month that will bring together European countries along with Egypt, the United States and China, Sudan's key diplomatic ally.

The conference will focus on creating the safe passage so humanitarian aid can reach people in the western Sudan region, Arab diplomats in Cairo said, speaking on condition of anonymity, because they were not authorized to speak to the media. Deby said the suggestion of the safe passage was made to him by Kouchner during his stop in Chad earlier this week.

But so far, Sudan has not agreed to attend the conference.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol has said that the timing was not right to attend and suggested that international initiatives be handled mainly by the United Nations and African Union.

Just for the record, there are rumors that the UN peacekeepers are worse than the AU.

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