France among 3 nations ready to take part in Darfur peacekeeping effort

Thursday, August 2, 2007

PARIS -- France, Denmark and Indonesia offered Wednesday to contribute to a joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force for Darfur, while Sudan praised the U.N. resolution, which was watered down to drop the threat of sanctions.

Acceptance of the new 26,000-strong force marked a major turnaround for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's government, which had resisted for months a push to send U.N. peacekeepers to the western Darfur region, where over 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million been chased from their homes in four years of fighting.

But Sudan agreed in June to a compromise deal for the African Union to deploy jointly with the United Nations in a "hybrid force" to end the violence, which is what the U.N. resolution passed Tuesday provides for.

"The Sudanese government is committed to implementing its part of the resolution," Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol told reporters on Wednesday.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved the force, which if fully deployed would be the world's largest peacekeeping operation. It is expected to be made up mostly of peacekeepers from Africa with backup from Asian troops.

Tuesday's resolution won Khartoum's praise after it dropped the threat of sanctions against Sudan if it fails to accept the force and an authorization for the new force to seize or collect arms. The changes were made in negotiations between Security Council members to avoid a veto by China, Sudan's top diplomatic ally.

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