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At the UN, Darfur Resolution's Ambiguity May Spell Trouble, Sudan Says It's Happy

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, July 31 --  The Darfur resolution passed by the Security Council on Tuesday permits the peacekeepers to use force to protect civilians, as long as it is "without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of Sudan."

            The ambiguity of this phrase could cause problems in the future, if the answers given by the Ambassadors of the United States, Sudan and United Kingdom on Wednesday are any guide.  Sudan's Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad was asked, "what if the peacekeeping force sees civilians in danger and says they'd like to act to protect then, and the Sudanese government disagrees -- who wins?"

            "Both," replied the Sudanese Ambassador, smiling. He said, "Today we are happy."

            Inner City Press asked U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad the same question. Video here, from Minute 13:45. Amb. Khalilzad, insisting that the resolution is "all about civilians," read out the dispute portion, adding in his interpretation. But his words weren't in the text as adopted. The "cleaning up of the resolution" took place Sunday between the Ambassadors of the UK and Sudan, according to the latter.

    The U.S. apparently wasn't involved, and was not a sponsor of the resolution. Asked why not, Amb. Khalilzad said, among other things, that Ghana wasn't a sponsor either. Some guess that the U.S. wants deniability if the resolution proves to have loopholes which allow for disputes and problems and further paralysis -- all of which is foreseeable.


            UK Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry, on the eve of "hanging up his jersey," as he puts it, and leaving his UN post, was asked to explain the "without prejudice" phrase. He insisted that the force commander will not have to seek permission from, or confer with, the Government of Sudan before using force to protect civilians. Video here. Later a UK staffer argued that the "protect civilians without prejudice to the responsibility of the government" phrase is relatively standard. A U.S. staffer said it is in Resolutions 1590 and 1706, the latter of which is hardly reassuring.

            UN Peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie Guehenno said his Department is ready to work, and that all important rebel leaders in Darfur are going to the meeting beginning August 3 in Arusha, Tanzania. Inner City Press asked if Abdel Wahid Nour is going. No, Mr. Guehenno said, he said he is not going. Video here.  Earlier, Inner City Press asked Sudan's Ambassador with reports of the Justice and Equality Movement splitting, will either branch be attending?

            "If groups are not united, they should have at least a common agenda to discuss with the government," Sudan's Ambassador said.

            Sudan has often noted that the much-hyped "heavy support package has yet to get off the ground," and that even the "light support package" is only 65% implemented. Inner City Press asked China's Ambassador Wang Guangya about these figures, and he acknowledged that the Chinese contingent of the heavy support package has still not deployed. Video here. We must move faster, he replied. You can say that again.

* * *

The section at issue:

15  Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations:

(a)  decides that UNAMID is authorized to take the necessary action, in the areas of deployment of its forces and as it deems within its capabilities in order to:

(i)   protect its personnel, facilities, installations and equipment, and to ensure the security and freedom of movement of its own personnel and humanitarian workers,

(ii)  support early and effective implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement, and prevent the disruption of its implementation and armed attacks, and protect civilians, without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of Sudan.

[Footnote: in 15(a)(ii), the words "thus to" from "and thus to protect civilians" were not in the printed version, although they were in the "draft in blue" circulated Monday night by the French mission.]

* * *

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund, while UNDP won't answer.

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