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Darfur plan calls for U.N. troops in Chad

By Edmund Sanders Times Staff Writer

Frustrated in its attempts to deploy peacekeeping troops to Sudan’s troubled Darfur region, the United Nations is considering sending forces to neighboring Chad instead, the chief of the world body said Wednesday.

“We are looking at the possibility of putting observers or some international presence on the border and working with the government of Chad,” U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in Nairobi, where he was attending a summit on climate change.

Annan said such a presence would reduce incursions into Chad and protect the estimated 200,000 refugees who have fled violence in western Sudan and live in camps inside Chad.

Annan is heading today to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for another strategizing session on Darfur with African Union leaders and diplomats from the U.S. and other Western nations. Sudan has staunchly opposed a U.N. proposal to send about 20,000 troops to replace the 7,000 African Union troops in Darfur.

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The conflict between Darfur rebels and the Sudanese government, which began in 2003, has killed at least 200,000 people and displaced 2.5 million others.

In the latest attempt to reach a compromise, U.N. officials are proposing a hybrid security force consisting of both African Union and U.N. troops.

It remained unclear how Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir would react to the hybrid proposal or to the idea of installing a security force on the border. A U.N. assessment team is to arrive in Chad shortly.

Analysts warned that such a move would work only if it had approval from the governments of both Chad and Sudan. Otherwise, an international force along the border might exacerbate tensions between the two nations. Each country accuses the other of secretly backing rebel movements on its neighbor’s soil.

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“The U.N. cannot escape the issue of consent by the two countries,” said Mohammed Guyo of the Institute for Security Studies in Nairobi.

If Chad approved the troops and Sudan did not, Sudanese soldiers and pro-government militias would probably view them as “hostile forces right across their border,” he said.

At the same time, Guyo said deployment of international troops in the region was “long overdue” because the Darfur conflict was spreading into Chad and the Central African Republic.

For months, combatants in the Darfur conflict have been crossing into Chad. There is also growing evidence that the ethnic warfare between Arab and non-Arab tribes in Darfur is poisoning the relations between Arab and non-Arab tribes in Chad.

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More than 220 Chadians have been killed in inter-communal violence, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reported this week.

African Union Chairman Denis Sassou-Nguesso, president of the Republic of Congo, expressed support for a U.N. mission in Chad. “We agree with the idea of sending U.N. troops to ensure security on the borders of Chad and Central African Republic,” he said in Paris after a meeting with French President Jacques Chirac, according to Reuters news service.

During a news conference in Nairobi, Annan also called for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the Independent Election Commission declared transitional President Joseph Kabila the winner of the nation’s first democratic election in more than 40 years.

He received 58% of the vote, compared with 42% for challenger Jean-Pierre Bemba, the panel said.

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Bemba has filed five complaints alleging voting irregularities during the Oct. 29 ballot, but the commission and international observers have insisted the election was free and orderly. Armed supporters of Kabila and Bemba clashed last week, killing at least three people.

“We hope the protagonists will accept the results and play by the rules,” Annan said.

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edmund.sanders@latimes.com

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