Aussie medics for Darfur


Summary

After months of debate, the UN's Security Council has approved plans for a 26,000-strong joint UN-African Nation force to tackle Darfur's four-year-long humanitarian crisis.

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But Australia will not send members of its military, after Foreign Minister Alexander Downer ruled the country's armed forces are already stretched to breaking point.

"We obviously have a lot of commitments already, so it will be very limited in what we can do," he added. "We won't be providing security personnel.

"We already have a large number of people deployed to different corners of the earth, so we won't be adding to that."

'Burden shared'

He called on other nations to step up and do their fair share in worldwide peacekeeping efforts.

"There are countries that haven't made such a huge contribution in some other parts of the world, and they'll have plenty of spare capacity to help out here in Darfur.

"The burden of peacekeeping needs to be shared around and not just carried by the usual hardy annuals."

Instead, Mr Downer said Australia would look at sending groups of medics to help the UN’s teams.

"The sort of support we can provide is probably in the areas of doctors and nurses," he said, adding he was confident of finding plenty of volunteers who would "willingly participate in support for the peacekeeping force."

At least 200,000 people have been killed and thousands more raped and injured in Sudan's Darfur province, which has been devastated in the long-running conflict between the Sudanese military and rebel militias.

Millions displaced

More than two million others have been displaced by the fighting since 2003.

Soldiers and police officers from the UN's peacekeeping unit will be permitted to use force to defend civilians and aid workers from attack.

The joint operation will replace the 7,000 beleaguered soldiers of the African Union currently working in Darfur by the end of the year.

If deployed fully, UNAMID, as it will be known, will be the world's largest peacekeeping force.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hailed the resolution establishing the unit "historic and unprecedented".

The US and the UK have both threatened sanctions against Khartoum if it does not act to put an end to the ongoing violence in Darfur.


After months of debate, the UN's Security Council has approved plans for a 26,000-strong joint UN-African Nation force to tackle Darfur's four-year-long humanitarian crisis.

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But Australia will not send members of its military, after Foreign Minister Alexander Downer ruled the country's armed forces are already stretched to breaking point.

"We obviously have a lot of commitments already, so it will be very limited in what we can do," he added. "We won't be providing security personnel.

"We already have a large number of people deployed to different corners of the earth, so we won't be adding to that."

'Burden shared'

He called on other nations to step up and do their fair share in worldwide peacekeeping efforts.

"There are countries that haven't made such a huge contribution in some other parts of the world, and they'll have plenty of spare capacity to help out here in Darfur.

"The burden of peacekeeping needs to be shared around and not just carried by the usual hardy annuals."

Instead, Mr Downer said Australia would look at sending groups of medics to help the UN’s teams.

"The sort of support we can provide is probably in the areas of doctors and nurses," he said, adding he was confident of finding plenty of volunteers who would "willingly participate in support for the peacekeeping force."

At least 200,000 people have been killed and thousands more raped and injured in Sudan's Darfur province, which has been devastated in the long-running conflict between the Sudanese military and rebel militias.

Millions displaced

More than two million others have been displaced by the fighting since 2003.

Soldiers and police officers from the UN's peacekeeping unit will be permitted to use force to defend civilians and aid workers from attack.

The joint operation will replace the 7,000 beleaguered soldiers of the African Union currently working in Darfur by the end of the year.

If deployed fully, UNAMID, as it will be known, will be the world's largest peacekeeping force.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hailed the resolution establishing the unit "historic and unprecedented".

The US and the UK have both threatened sanctions against Khartoum if it does not act to put an end to the ongoing violence in Darfur.