South Sudan to Get 7,900 UN Peacekeepers, Envoys Say

Envoys of the 15 members of the United Nations Security Council have agreed to send 7,000 soldiers and 900 police to the oil-rich Republic of South Sudan to provide security for the new nation, two UN diplomats said.

The Security Council is likely to vote tomorrow to adopt a U.S.-drafted resolution authorizing the peacekeeping deployment for 12 months, according to the two diplomats, who requested anonymity because the agreement was reached in closed talks yesterday.

South Sudan will declare its independence from Sudan on July 9 and assume control of about 75 percent of Sudan’s daily oil production of 490,000 barrels. The crude, pumped mainly by China National Petroleum Corp., Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd and India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp., is exported through a pipeline that runs to Port Sudan on the Red Sea. Oil earnings accounted for about 98 percent of South Sudan’s 2010 budget.

“This is a fragile and fraught moment,” U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, who will lead the American delegation to the independence ceremony, told reporters in Washington today. “It cannot, and must not, be taken for granted, least of all by the government of Sudan and the government of the Republic of South Sudan, who will have to still work exceptionally hard to achieve an enduring peace and enable the emergence of two viable states that are peaceful neighbors.”

‘Extremely Concerned’

Most of the 7,900 peacekeepers will be drawn from the 10,500 soldiers and police currently deployed in Sudan to monitor the cease-fire that ended a two-decade civil war in the region. About 2,500 now stationed on the northern side of what will become the border between two nations will be withdrawn. The government in Khartoum hasn’t agreed to allow any UN peacekeepers to stay north of the border.

Rice said the U.S. was “extremely concerned” by Sudan’s decision to compel the withdrawal of the 2,500 UN troops from the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states north of the border, which have been the scene of recent fighting.

“It’s vital that the United Nations be allowed to maintain a full peacekeeping presence in these areas for an additional period of time in order to facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid, support the implementation of any cessation of hostilities agreement, and vitally, to protect civilians,” Rice said.

Weapons Flow

The draft resolution authorizing the new mission calls for it to monitor any flow of weapons across the border with Sudan, protect civilians in the new nation and assist the development of South Sudan’s government. Questions about the necessity for as many as 7,900 uniformed personnel caused diplomats to put a provision in the resolution mandating a review of the troop strength after three months.

The Security Council voted on June 27 to deploy 4,200 Ethiopian soldiers to the disputed border area of Abyei to allow for the withdrawal of Sudanese and South Sudanese troops. Sudan’s army seized the main town in Abyei on May 21 after accusing South Sudan of attacking its forces. The Ethiopian troops, separate from the 7,900-member peacekeeping force, will remain in the Abyei area.

“A permanent resolution of Abyei’s status is still elusive, and the situation there, in spite of an agreement on temporary security arrangements signed on June 20th and the imminent deployment of a UN interim security force for Abyei, is still extremely volatile,” Rice said. “An estimated 100,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Abyei.”

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