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US runs into trouble with tough Sudan resolution

Objections from China, Russia and several African nations have forced US to strip out much of the most powerful language of the draft.

india Updated: May 13, 2006 04:17 IST

The United States has run into strong resistance in its bid for a Security Council resolution that would give the United Nations immediate control over peacekeepers in Darfur, diplomats said on Friday.

Objections from China, Russia and several African nations have forced the United States to strip out much of the most powerful language of the draft, possibly delaying the deployment of UN peacekeepers in the troubled Sudanese region.

The retreat is a blow to US President George W Bush, who had announced on Monday that he would seek the new resolution and asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to press for it during a UN visit on Tuesday.

It was part of several new initiatives from Bush to bring an end to the suffering in Darfur, where violence has killed nearly 200,000 people since 2003. Late last week, Darfur's government and rebels signed a peace deal at last.

A new draft of the US resolution circulated late Thursday makes several key concessions. For example, it asks only that a UN assessment team inspect the AU force "with a view to a follow-on United Nations operation in Darfur."

The draft also asks all parties to the Darfur deal, the United Nations and other organizations "to accelerate transition to a United Nations operation."

Sudan's government has previously refused to allow the assessment team into the country, though officials have suggested the peace deal could ease its concerns.

"The expectation continues that we will have a joint planning team on the ground in Darfur as soon as possible," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. "We would expect the government of Sudan to cooperate fully and let this team do its work."

The African Union forces, which number about 7,200, are now low on funds and have largely been ineffective in stopping atrocities and re-establishing security.

According to the UN plan, the force would be bolstered and folded into the command of a UN peacekeeping force monitoring a separate peace deal between Sudan's largely Muslim north and the Christian and animist south.

US Ambassador John Bolton said Friday he did not think the new draft was "substantially weaker," though he acknowledged several changes had been required.

"I think some things were removed in an effort to reach a broader consensus within the council about what the text would be," Bolton said. "I think we're very close to bringing it before the council. I hope it will be unanimous but again, we're prepared to go whether it's unanimous or not."

But several diplomats said objections remained. They portrayed the latest draft more as a US effort to show progress on Darfur than as a text that will move any closer to a UN-led mission there. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the draft publicly. China and Russia, two veto-wielding members of the council, oppose that even the new draft is written under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which could make it legally binding and enforceable by sanctions.

The African Union has asked that the council delay voting on the draft until after Monday, when its Peace and Security Council meets to endorse the Darfur peace deal and discuss the possibility of giving the United Nations authority over the AU force.