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Hope for Darfur
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A ray of hope for the Darfur region is on the horizon.

Sudan has announced that it will accept the entire "heavy support package" of troops, police officers, civilian staff and equipment that the United Nations will provide to the African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission in the violence-wracked Darfur region.

China, Libya and the United States had sent envoys to Khartoum, and the announcement implies that the international community's diplomacy in the past 10 days has been successful.

Zhai Jun, China's special envoy, asked the Sudanese government to be more flexible on the three-phase support plan to respond to the concerns of all parties concerned. China supports discussion and consultation based on equality.

During a tripartite meeting in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on April 9, representatives of the UN, the AU and the Sudanese government agreed in principle to inaugurate the second phase the heavy support phase of a UN support plan for the AU mission in Darfur.

As part of the support, Sudan is required to provide the land and other facilities necessary for the deployment, including permission to explore for water and to meet all operational requirements.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that he is ready to work closely with the AU and the Sudanese government to implement the deployment. The three-step plan is supposed to culminate within six months in a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force of approximately 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers across Darfur.

Ban's Special Envoy for Darfur Jan Eliasson said that he and his AU counterpart, Salim Ahmed Salim, would now step up efforts to find a non-military solution.

China has favored seeking a political settlement of the Darfur issue which respects Sudan's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Sudan is expected to create favorable conditions for implementing the heavy support package. As part of the resolution, the Darfur Peace Agreement signed in May 2006 should be upheld so as to achieve a comprehensive ceasefire in the region.

At the heart of comprehensive concerns, peace is not achievable unless the unspeakably impoverished conditions in Darfur are dramatically improved.

After all, it is poverty that has dragged different parties in Sudan into the genocidal conflicts over water and grazing land.

(China Daily April 18, 2007)

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