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UN Continuing to Push Final Phases of Peace Plan in Sudan

The United Nations Mission in Sudan said Wednesday it is pleased that Sudan has accepted the second phase of a proposed three-phase U.N. support package for Darfur. But the U.N. said it will continue to push Sudan to accept the third and final phase, involving the deployment of around 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers to the region. For VOA, Noel King has this report from Khartoum.

Sudan came under intense pressure from the international community earlier this year to accept U.N. support for the struggling African Union mission currently in Darfur.

But Sudan balked at the proposed deployment of U.N. peacekeepers, likening U.N. entry to colonization.

Sudan this month said it will accept the second phase of U.N. support, involving the deployment of around 3000 peacekeepers backed by heavy equipment, including attack helicopters.

U.N. Mission in Sudan spokesperson Rhadia Achouri told reporters in Khartoum that the U.N. is pleased Sudan has accepted the second phase.

"The agreement on the heavy support package is a positive development. But this package is only the second step. And the ultimate objective remains the deployment of a hybrid force in DarfurAchouri said.

Sudan has yet to agree to the third phase of U.N. support, the so-called U.N./A.U. "hybrid" force which would bolster the African Union with an additional 20,000 U.N. troops.

Achouri said that it is unclear when the three-thousand U.N. peacekeepers called for in the second phase will actually be deployed.

"Nobody can give you an exact time frame. We need troop-contributing countries to come forward with actual offers. We need the cooperation of the government of Sudan to prepare the infrastructure for these people to be deployed on the ground," Achouri said.

The Darfur conflict has entered its fifth year.

Sudan is charged with arming Arab militias known as janjaweed, to crush a rebellion by members of African tribes who complained remote Darfur was neglected by Sudan's powerful Islamist regime.

An estimated 200,000 people have died with some 2.5 million more displaced by violence.