UN Security Council ambassadors visited peacekeepers and victims of the conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan on Thursday, expressing frustration over dire insecurity.
Top diplomats representing the 15 members of the Security Council held talks with the commanders of the undermanned and ill-equipped UN-led peacekeeping force and visited a camp for around 50,000 displaced men, women and children.
"I'm feeling very frustrated," said the chief delegate, South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, after a visit to Zam Zam camp near El Fasher not far from where a Ugandan peacekeeper was killed last week.
Five months after the force known as UNAMID became operational on December 31, only 7,600 troops and 1,500 police are on the ground -- barely a third of the projected total of 19,500 soldiers and 6,500 policemen.
"In New York we have the feeling that our main problems are coming from the government of Sudan but the other side of the story is these brave men and women of UNAMID who are horribly under served and under supported," said Kumalo.
Besides an offer from Ethiopia for a few utility helicopters, the force still lacks the air transport and cover desperately needed to support troops across the vast terrain with limited roads, and other transport vehicles.
"There is a problem of the UN here. The UN is under-resourced and unable to do anything. There is also the side that the government of Sudan is frustrated too," said the South African ambassador.
"The people we saw in the camp said the UN should come and protect them. But with what? We don't have the resources and these poor people are more vulnerable now than before, so I'm very frustrated.
"The international community is to blame," he added.
The Council spent around 45 minutes at Zam Zam camp, where they were ushered into a special enclosure and small thatched hut to meet about 30 local leaders from the camp.
They were accompanied by dozens of support staff, diplomats, security escorts, UNAMID personnel and journalists, amid murmurings of criticism that the diplomats did not tour the camp, an AFP correspondent said.
British ambassador John Sawers, was the only Council member who broke away with some bodyguards for a 15-minute visit inside the camp.
Later on Thursday, International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo pleaded with the Security Council to demand Khartoum arrest Darfur war crimes suspects Ahmed Haroun and Ali Kosheib.
Sudan has launched a stinging attack on the ICC prosecutor and vowed never to extradite any citizen to the World Court in The Hague.
The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have died from the combined effects of war, famine and disease and more than 2.2 million have fled their homes since the Darfur conflict broke out in February 2003.
Sudan says 10,000 have been killed.
The Darfur conflict broke out when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated regime and state-backed Arab militias, fighting for resources and power in one of the most remote and deprived places on earth.
"There is no military solution here. Our goal is to create the conditions for the displaced and refugees to go home and resume their lives in peace and security," said the British ambassador.
He called for free movement for humanitarian workers and regular protection of convoys trying to bring food and medicine for people in Darfur.
The World Food Programme has cut rations by half because banditry made the roads increasingly dangerous. So far this year, 60 WFP-contracted trucks have been hijacked in Darfur and 26 drivers are unaccounted for.
The head of Darfur peacekeeping warned on Thursday there could no security in the increasingly lawless, remote and desperately poor region roughly the size of France until the world deploys all 26,000 promised troops.
In the five years since the Darfur rebels first rose up against the government, the conflict has fractured into a maze of overlapping armed groups.