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UN peacekeeping force in Sudan to downsize but in no rush to exit

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-03-18 10:42

UNITED NATIONS - A senior UN official said Tuesday that the United Nations is taking steps to honor Khartoum's request to downsize its peacekeeping force, but the peacekeepers are in no rush to exit, because of the "precarious situation" in Sudan's long-troubled and vast western region of Darfur.

"We have been having a flurry of renewed security incidents on a rather large scale, in particular in the area of northern Darfur," UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous told the 15-member panel of the UN Security Council in a briefing.

Strength of the hybrid African Union-UN Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) authorized at 12,500 personnel is currently just over 10,000.

Since November 2014 Khartoum has been asking UNAMID to decrease rather than increase its strength.

Fighting between government forces and opposition groups continued and talks have not "made significant progress in the past year," he told reporters after briefing council members.

"The net result is that we had last year 450,000 extra IDPs (internally displaced persons) in Darfur and since the beginning of this year an extra 43,000" IDPs, Ladsous said.

The UN mission's main task is to protect of civilians and offer support for the political process, handled primarily by a high-level implementation panel of the African Union, he said.

"At the same time we have this statement by the government of the Sudan for several months that they want UNAMID to exit in due course from Darfur," Ladsous said.

"We have presently in Khartoum a team to start a working group which will look at the process for the exit of UNAMID eventually," the senior UN official said.

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