RIYADH (Reuters) -Sudan has signed an agreement with the United Nations and the African Union (AU) on the deployment of African and U.N. forces in Darfur, the official Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday.
Saudi Arabia’s “King Abdullah received a telephone call from Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in which he informed him that the Sudanese government has signed an agreement with the United Nations and the AU that determines the duties and role of the African and U.N. forces in the Darfur region,” SPA said.
The agency did not give further details about the agreement, which it said was brokered in Riyadh during the Arab summit held in the Saudi capital late in March.
The United Nations has been nearing a deal with Khartoum to add 3,000 U.N. military personnel and equipment to the AU force under a so-called heavy support package but Sudan has so far objected to the U.N. fielding six attack helicopters.
Sudan’s Foreign Minister Lam Akol said on Sunday Khartoum was inclined to allow the helicopters to be deployed and would take as many more AU troops as needed to stabilize Darfur but would not bow to international pressure to accept a U.N. force.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte has pressed Sudanese officials to accept thousands of U.N. peacekeepers to support the world’s biggest humanitarian effort there.
At a Khartoum news conference at the end of his visit to Sudan, Negroponte said the situation in Darfur was deteriorating and required urgent action.
“The AU and the U.N. are on the ground and working hard but they face serious challenges, in fact there are more internally displaced persons in Darfur now than when the DPA (Darfur peace agreement) was signed in May 2006,” he said.
“We must move quickly to a larger hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force with a single unified chain of command that conforms to U.N. standards and practices,” he added.
He also chided the Sudanese government saying its record on allowing relief workers access to Darfur was “not encouraging.”
“The denial of visas, the harassment of aid workers and other measures have create the impression that the government is engaged in a deliberate campaign of intimidation,” the U.S. envoy said.
Experts estimate about 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million have fled their homes since the Darfur conflict flared in 2003 when rebels took up arms against government forces, saying Khartoum had neglected the area.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was expected to meet on Monday and Tuesday in New York with AU chief executive Alpha Oumar Konare and the two envoys for a Darfur peace accord: Jan Eliasson for the United Nations and Salim Ahmed Salim of the AU.