U.N. should stay in volatile parts of Sudan: U.S.

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 07, 2011 8:14 PM
U.N. should stay in volatile parts of Sudan: U.S.

By Megan Davies

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. peacekeepers should be able to stay in the volatile areas of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile after South Sudan secedes from the north, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. said on Thursday, days before the United Nations' mission is set to end.

Poor, conflict-ravaged but oil-producing South Sudan is preparing to secede on July 9 and the U.N.'s UNMIS mission, which monitors compliance with the 2005 north-south peace deal, is set to end.

A new mission, UNMISS, is expected to be created in South Sudan for up to 7,000 U.N. peacekeepers and an additional 900 civilian police, according to a draft copy of the resolution obtained by Reuters.

The U.N. Security Council is expected to vote on that resolution on Thursday, diplomats said.

However, Khartoum has made clear it is against a continuing U.N. peacekeeping presence, diplomats have said. That means U.N. peacekeepers in the north will have to leave unless some new kind of agreement is reached, said one diplomat.

"The United States is extremely concerned by the government's decision to compel the departure of the U.N. mission in Sudan from Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states and elsewhere in the North on July 9," Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said in a speech in Washington.

"It's vital that the United Nations be allowed to maintain a full peacekeeping presence in these areas for an additional period of time," Rice said.

She said a full force in the areas was necessary for distribution of humanitarian aid and to protect civilians.

The "liquidation" of UNMIS will start Saturday, said U.N.'s special envoy to Sudan Haile Menkerios, according to a statement from UNMIS.

NEW MISSION

That means about 3,000 peacekeepers would be redeployed from the northern parts of Sudan, said Michel Bonnardeaux, a spokesman for U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

Of those, 1,000 UNMIS peacekeepers in the Abyei region will be replaced by a new mission called UNISFA and composed of 4,200 blue helmets from Ethiopia, said Bonnardeaux.

Menkerios said the recent conflict in Southern Kordofan had "extremely worrying consequences for the civilian population."

"As in the past, the United Nations stands ready to assist the parties in resolving their differences and implementing new agreements they now must find," Menkerios said.

The U.N. also has a mission in the Darfur region.

The draft resolution to establish peacekeeping forces in South Sudan calls for reviews after three and six months to see whether conditions on the ground allow for a reduction of peacekeepers to 6,000, according to the copy.

A number of aid agencies have called on the United Nations to increase the number of troops to be deployed to South Sudan. Oxfam has argued that the country has little capacity to protect its own population despite its commitment to do so.

However, several countries have been challenging the U.N. Secretariat to produce evidence that as many as 7,000 troops are still needed, a Western diplomat said on Wednesday.

Some of the tasks originally envisaged, such as border monitoring, are now expected to be done by UNISFA, the diplomat said on Wednesday. UNIFSA, the U.N. Interim Security Force in Abyei, is a peacekeeping force of 4,200 Ethiopian troops deployed to the disputed Abyei region for a six-month period.

(Editing by Bill Trott)