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Five Nations Pledge to Back Darfur Force
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Five African nations pledged yesterday to send peacekeepers to a mission in Sudan's troubled Darfur region that was approved this week by the UN Security Council, a top African Union (AU) official said.

Said Djinnit, the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, said member states had responded positively during talks on the deployment of up to 26,000 UN and AU troops who will absorb a smaller AU force that has failed to quell the violence.

"Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Egypt, Cameroon and Ethiopia have pledged to provide troops for the Darfur operation," Djinnit told reporters at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa.

South Africa said it would consider sending more troops, in addition to the 97 it already has in Sudan. "We will give very serious consideration and I am sure positive considerations to increasing our presence," Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aziz Pahad told reporters in the South African capital Pretoria.

Nigeria already has troops in Darfur and Djinnit did not say how many soldiers overall had now been pledged.

Expected to cost more than US$2 billion in the first year, the so-called "hybrid" force will assume authority over 7,000 AU soldiers already in Darfur by December 31, but the daunting task of finding enough personnel is expected to take many more months.

Sudan has promised to cooperate with the new mission, which was authorized by the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

Mutref Sediq, Sudan's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said the resolution did not meet all Khartoum's demands.

"But it is reasonable and constitutes a good base for cooperation between the African Union, United Nations and the Sudan government," he told a news conference in Addis Ababa.

The peacekeepers will be able to use force to protect civilians and the world's biggest aid operation, but the resolution was watered down and no longer allows troops to seize illegal arms. There was also no threat of sanctions if Sudan fails to cooperate.

(China Daily via agencies August 3, 2007)

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