February 16, 2007 / 10:04 AM / 13 years ago

UN's Ban raps Sudan on visas for rights monitors

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 15 (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday Sudan had broken its promise to allow into Darfur a human rights mission and that he was still awaiting a reply from Khartoum on a peacekeeping force.

The Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council voted to send a fact-finding mission to Darfur but Sudan this week did not issue visas as the team waited in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

"It was very much disappointing for me," Ban told reporters after a lunch with the 15 Security Council ambassadors. He said he had discussed the issue with Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir when they met an an African Union meeting in Addis Ababa last month.

"He (Bashir) said he would issue visas to the fact-finding mission," Ban said. "He said he would have no problem, and I am very much disappointed by the decision of the Sudanese government."

Ban said he urged Sudan to cooperate fully "with the unanimous decision of the Human Rights Council," adding that if Bashir "believes that there is no problem, then he should be able to receive the human rights fact-finding mission."

The Human Rights Council established the mission in December for Darfur, where at least 200,000 people have died, 2.5 million villagers have been uprooted and rape is widespread since fighting between government forces, allied militias and rebel groups in 2003.

But Ban would not say, in answer to a question, whether he protested to Bashir after the visa debacle.

HYBRID FORCE

The secretary-general was also asked about plans for a so-called "hybrid" force of United Nations and African Union troops in Darfur. Diplomats at the lunch said they put some hard questions to Ban about repeated delays.

Ban said he was awaiting a report from his special envoy Jan Eliasson of Sweden, now in Sudan, as well as an answer to a letter he sent to Bashir late last month.

"So again, this continuing deteriorating situation in Darfur is just unacceptable," Ban said. "I’m still awaiting an official reply from President Bashir to my letter of Jan. 24, which outlines our detailed positions on force generation, command and control and funding."

"With an affirmative answer, we can pave the way immediately to the introduction of an AU-UN hybrid mission," Ban said.

Sudan has agreed to a joint mission but has objected to more troops coming to Darfur than the 7,000-strong African Union force now on the ground.

Most of these AU soldiers would be incorporated into a new mission the United Nations hoped would have some 17,000 troops. But until plans are settled, few other countries, except for Bangladesh, have volunteered to send soldiers or logistic personnel and air cover that Western nations are to provide.




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