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UN approves peacekeeping force with 7,000 troops for South Sudan on eve of independence
UNITED NATIONS (AP) ' The U.N. Security Council has approved a new peacekeeping force for South Sudan on the eve of its independence.
The council voted unanimously Friday to deploy up to 7,000 military personnel and 900 international police to the world's newest nation with a mandate to keep peace and help promote development.
The council acted ahead of independence celebrations on Saturday, when the mainly ethnic African south officially breaks away from the Arab-dominated north.
South Sudan's independence is the culmination of a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war. There are fears the conflict could be re-ignited because troops from the north and south are facing off in the contested oil-rich border region of Abyei.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
UNITED NATIONS (AP) ' A new U.N. peacekeeping mission for South Sudan will have up to 7,000 military personnel and 900 international police with a mandate to keep peace and help promote development in the world's newest nation, according to the draft U.N. resolution obtained late Thursday by The Associated Press.
The U.N. Security Council held intensive discussions this week to reach agreement on a resolution that would authorize the new mission and ensure its adoption before South Sudan officially becomes independent from Sudan's Khartoum-ruled north on Saturday.
The council scheduled a meeting Friday morning, when diplomats said the draft resolution is almost certain to be approved unanimously.
Russian concerns about authorizing a mission before South Sudan becomes independent were overcome by including the phrase: "Welcoming the establishment of the Republic of South Sudan on July 9, 2011 upon its proclamation as an independent state," the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because negotiations were private.
The draft resolution would establish a new United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan on July 9 for an initial period of one year, with up to 7,000 military personnel and 900 civilian police as well as civilian staff including human rights experts. It calls for reviews after three months and six months to determine if conditions on the ground would allow the military contingent to be reduced from 7,000 to 6,000 troops.
It also gives the U.N. mission, to be known as UNMISS, a mandate "to consolidate peace and security, and to help establish the conditions for development ... with a view to strengthening the capacity of the government of the Republic of South Sudan to govern effectively and democratically and establish good relations with its neighbors."
The draft resolution specifically authorizes the mission to support the new government on its political transition, issues of governance and establishing state authority throughout the country, and to advise it on "an inclusive constitutional process," holding elections, and establishing an independent media.
It authorizes U.N. peacekeepers to support the government in preventing conflict and demobilizing combatants, to conduct patrols in areas at high risk of conflict, and to protect civilians "under imminent threat of physical violence." It also authorizes the mission to cooperate with U.N. agencies in supporting the government in peacebuilding activities, including promoting development, the rule of law, security and justice.
Independence for South Sudan is the culmination of a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war between Sudan's Arab-dominated north and mainly ethnic African south, one of the longest and deadliest conflicts in Africa.
But there are fears that war could be re-ignited in the poverty-stricken nation because troops from the north and south are facing off in the contested oil-rich border region of Abyei and northern troops and forces loyal to the south are fighting in Southern Kordofan, a state just over the border in the north.
The U.N. has had a 10,400-strong peacekeeping force, known as UNMIS, monitoring implementation of the 2005 north-south agreement, which operates on both sides of the border. Its mandate expires Saturday and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon proposed a three-month extension but the Khartoum government rejected any extension and said it wanted all U.N. troops out of the north.
Diplomats said the five permanent Security Council nations ' the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France ' jointly asked the Sudanese government earlier this week to allow a U.N. presence in the north after South Sudan breaks away.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, who will be leading the American delegation to South Sudan's independence ceremonies, said Thursday in Washington that many council members are trying to persuade Sudan's leaders "that it is not in their interest that the U.N. be compelled to leave abruptly or prematurely" while key issues from the 2005 agreement remain unresolved and "a volatile and grave humanitarian situation" exists in Southern Kordofan and possibly neighboring Blue Nile state.
"We will continue to do what we can to underscore to Khartoum that it is in their interests and the interests of the region that they not take this step," Rice said. "But they seem thus far to be quite determined, and this poses a great deal of worry for the security of people in Southern Kordofan, for the common border, for humanitarian access and a number of other important issues."
Haile Menkerios, the top U.N. envoy in Sudan, said Thursday in Juba that the "liquidation" of UNMIS will start on July 10. Diplomats said between 2,500-3,000 U.N. peacekeepers are currently based in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile where fighting continues.
"U.N. engagement in Sudan will, however, continue," Menkerios said. "The United Nations will continue its support to the government of Sudan, the government of South Sudan and to the people of Sudan as a whole through its agencies, funds and programs, a new mission in South Sudan and a new mission in Abyei."
Leaders from the north and south signed an agreement on June 20 to demilitarize Abyei and allow and Ethiopian peacekeeping force to move and a week later the Security Council authorized the deployment of 4,200 Ethiopian troops in Abyei for six months.
One unresolved issue is future responsibility for monitoring the north-south border.
The governments of both Sudans signed an agreement on border security on June 29 and the draft resolution calls on the parties to propose arrangements for border monitoring by July 20. If they fail to do so, the resolution requests the new U.N. mission in South Sudan "to observe and report on any flow of personnel, arms and related materiel across the border with Sudan."