Saturday, March 08, 2008

U.S. and Canada team up for Darfur initiative

Steven Edwards , Canwest News Service

UNITED NATIONS - Canada partnered with the United States on Thursday in a bid to speed up deployment of a 26,000-strong peacekeeping force to Sudan's Darfur region.

The United Nations Security Council approved the joint UN-African Union force last year, but equipment shortages and some administrative foot-dragging by the Sudanese government has meant only 9,200 soldiers are currently on the ground - and 7,000 of them had been there in an earlier AU force.

The U.S.-Canadian initiative aims at bringing together what one official called a "captive audience" of countries willing to fill equipment needs.

Canada has already delivered 105 armoured personnel carriers as part of a much wider aid package, but the mission still lacks vehicles and helicopters both for ground and air mobility and for firepower.

Belgium, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Norway and Italy were among countries attending the first of weekly meetings Thursday hosted by U.S. and Canadian diplomats at UN headquarters. Russia said Wednesday it is in talks aimed at delivering helicopters.

"Canada and other partners are concerned about the delays and is encouraging discussion. . . to create security in the region and to support renewed peace talks," said Eugenie Cormier-Lassonde, a spokeswoman with the Foreign Affairs Department. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>

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