Security Council approves peacekeeping force in Darfur

The UN Security Council has approved a plan to send to Darfur just under 20,000 peacekeeping troops who will be authorized to use force in the troubled region.

The UN Security Councilhas approveda plan tosend to Darfurjust under 20,000 peacekeepingtroopswhowill be authorized to use forcein the troubled region.

The force —a hybrid of UN soldiers and African Union troops —would be under the command of both the United Nationsand the AU.

It will consist of as many as 19,555 military personnel,including 360 military observers and liaison officers.As well, 3,772 police personnel and 19 police units of up to 140 personnel each will be deployed.The force will come from mainly Muslim African countries.

International Co-operation Minister Josée Verner says the Canadian government has not yet been asked to contribute soldiers to the international effort.

Theconflict in the region has claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people and forced millions to live as refugeessince it began in 2003.

According to theproposed resolution, the forcewill be allowed "to take the necessary action" to protect its personnel, support the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement andprotect civilians.

The CBC's Neil Herland said that means the peacekeepers will have the right to "shoot and kill anyone who tries to harm civilians and anyone who tries to harm the mission itself."

The resolution sets a clear timeline, with the first command centre tobe set up in Darfurfor October. The first peacekeepers are set to hit the ground in December.

Activists 'clamouring for' operation: Ban

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called it a "historic and unprecedented operation" that will send "a clear and powerful signal" of help to the people of Darfur.

"This is something that activists have been clamouring for," Herland reported. "They've demanded the United Nations Security Council intervene in this case and it's literally taken four years for this to finally happen."

Herland said one of the main reasons UN intervention has been delayed is that China has been reluctant to intervene in what it views asa domestic affair. China has veto power on the security council.

But their stance appeared to changeafter activists began urging people to boycott the 2008 BeijingOlympics over their unwillingness to get involved.

The UN and western governments had pressed Sudan for months to accept a plan for a large joint force of 20,000 UN and AU peacekeepers to replace the overwhelmed 7,000-strong African force now in Darfur.

Sudan initially accepted the hybrid peacekeeping plan in November but then backtracked, before finally agreeing earlier this month.

Sudan has poor track record: Save Darfur member

Allyn Brooks-Lasure, of the group Save Darfur,said it's hard to get excited over Monday's resolution because of the Sudanese government's poor track record.

"The genocide has been in overtime for a long time now and this is finally the United Nations lacing up," Brooks-Lasure said."Now it's time to really see game play and to really see what they intend to do, and if theUN is going to keep their promise to the international community and the people of Darfur."

Sudan's ambassador to the UN, Abdalmahmood Mohamad, evaded questions about the authority of UN troops to unilaterally move against pro-government militias to protect civilians.

"I don't want to start interpreting the security council mandate on this," he said.

Countries including the United States and Great Britain have threatened swift sanctions that were left out of Monday's resolutionif Sudan interferes in the UN's plan.