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Assessment Team Will Go To Darfur

The Sudanese government is allowing a Joint African Union/United Nations assessment team to enter Darfur within a few days. The A-U/U-N team will assess the additional needs of the African Union Mission in Sudan (A-M-I-S) and requirements for a U-N peacekeeping force.

Recently-adopted U-N Security Council Resolution Sixteen Seventy-Nine calls for A-M-I-S to transition as soon as possible to a larger, more robust U-N peacekeeping operation built around a core of African troops that would include Africans in key leadership positions. The force will help implement the Darfur Peace Agreement, provide security to the people of the Darfur region, and help create the conditions for a return of displaced persons and refugees, and for reconstruction and development.

Fighting broke out in Darfur in 2003, after rebels complained that the region had been marginalized by the central government. Rebels affiliated with the Sudan Liberation Movement -- the S-L-M -- and the Justice and Equality Movement attacked Sudanese government facilities. Supported by the Sudanese government, Janjaweed militia responded by launching attacks on civilians from Sudan's Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa groups in Darfur. Thousands of people have died from fighting, famine, and disease.

Some two million Sudanese are living in displaced persons camps across Darfur and more than two-hundred thousand are in refugee camps in neighboring Chad. U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says the arrival of the U-N assessment team will be a positive step forward:

"You have to have the assessment team on the ground. . .as a precondition really to have an expanded force there and eventually a U-N peacekeeping force. So yes, we view this as a positive step."

But, says Mr. McCormack, there are still problems in Darfur:

"There are reports of continued violence in Darfur where you have various. . .factions of the S-L-A [S-L-M] fighting with one another, those factions doing raids on villages. S-L-A [S-L-M] fighting with Janjaweed. But on the positive side, you also do have some reports of the Sudanese government engaging with the Janjaweed.... That's part of Darfur peace agreement and part of the responsibilities of the Khartoum government [to disarm the Janjaweed]."

"All the parties need to meet their obligations under the Darfur peace agreement. But the only way that you are going to really address the security situation in the immediate term is to have that expanded. . .U-N mission," says State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.