UN Mission In Sudan Extended

4/30/2010 7:1 AM ET The U.N. Security Council has unanimously decided to extend the mandate of the U.N. Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) to another year.

The current mandate, expiring Friday, has been extended with the possibility for further renewal "as may be required," the 15-nation Council said Thursday while favoring a resolution to ensure the protection of civilians in the region.

The U.N. elite body also tasked UNMIS with additional responsibilities, including support for the self- determination vote next year between north and south Sudan.

The 10,000-strong UNMIS force, including 470 military observers, has ben assigned to monitor a comprehensive peace agreement signed in 2005 between the government in Khartoum in the north and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement in the south.

The agreement, which ended decades of civil war that killed tens of thousands and displaced millions, called for a referendum in early 2011 to decide the future of the agreement.

The Council asked UNMIS to submit a detailed plan about U.N. support for the referendum in both regions, including lessons learned from the just concluded national elections and its actions in the post-referendum period.

In the country's first multi-party elections in almost a quarter of a century marred by an opposition boycott, allegations of fraud, and violence that killed 55 people, Darfur war-crimes suspect Omar al-Bashir was re-elected President

Former rebel leader Salva Kiir was re-elected President of the semi-autonomous southern region.

Bashir is expected to form a coalition with Kiir.

Kiir's Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) joined a fragile national coalition government headed by Bashir's National Congress Party after a 2005 peace deal but relations remain tricky between the supposed partners.

The referendum seeks answer on whether the south, where most people are Christian or follow traditional religions, should secede from the Arab-dominated mostly-Muslim north.

Reports say the outcome would help Bashir, the only sitting head of state wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, defy the ICC warrant, in which he is accused of ordering a campaign of murder, torture and rape in Sudan's Darfur region during the seven-year conflict.

Ethnic rebels have been fighting the Khartoum-based Arab-dominated central government soldiers and Arab militias in the western region since February 2003, accusing it of discrimination.

The United Nations says that up to 300,000 people have died and more than 2.7 million were displaced in the prolonged conflict.

Separately, a UN-African Union peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) has been deployed to ensure the protection of civilians in the conflict-ravaged Sudanese region of Darfur.

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UN Mission In Sudan Extended
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Apr 30, 2010 - 8:43:44 AM