US urges UN to deploy troops to Darfur
The United States urged the United Nations on Wednesday to quickly deploy peacekeeping troops to Sudan's Darfur region and stop procrastinating on logistical issues like helicopters for troop transports. ( dpa )
The UN has been asking governments to provide aircraft and ground transportation for the UN-African mission in Darfur (UNAMID), which when fully deployed would have 30,000 military and civilian personnel, making it the world's largest UN operation. But the UN has so far obtained no helicopters.
About 9,000 troops have deployed to Darfur. The US has said it would send helicopters, but the Sudanese government has rejected anything from the US.
Richard Williamson, the White House's envoy for Sudan, said the UN had become "obsessive" about the helicopter issue.
"Giving the instability and the violence going on, it's way past time for talks," Williamson told reporters. "We have to have action, including accelerating the deployment of UNAMID."
Williamson met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and some Security Council members at UN headquarters, saying, "The UN cannot let form prevails over substance."
He said peacekeepers deployed in Darfur have already made a "dramatic" impact on curbing violence, particularly sexual violence against women and girls leaving their camps to collect firewood unprotected. He said he had urged those troops to patrol after sunset near camps to protect the civilians.
Williamson said the US had urged Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir to accept 1,600 troops from Nepal and Thailand, a demand he said the Sudanese had not rejected out of hand. The US also has trained troops in five African countries that can contribute to UNAMID, he said.
He said more peacekeepers can be deployed in coming months to boost the joint UN-African Union peace mission in Darfur regardless of whether helicopters can be obtained.