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AU lists military hardware it needs from Donors for Darfur peacekeeping

5/23/2005 7:53am

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, May 23, 2005 (AP) -- The African Union will press donors for six helicopter gunships, 116 armored personnel carriers and other equipment for its peacekeepers struggling to end the humanitarian crisis in Sudan 's western Darfur region.
The logistical and material support will help the A.U. raise the number of its peacekeepers and step up operations to stabilize Darfur, the scene of one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

"The international community has asked us to increase our strength which we are doing and so I think they will support us both logistically and financially," A.U. spokesman Assane Ba said.

An estimated 180,000 people have died - many from hunger and disease - and about 2 million others have fled their homes in Darfur to escape the conflict between rebels on one side and government forces pro-government militia on the other.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and the European Union's Security Affairs Chief Javier Solana are expected in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa this week for a conference intended to raise funds for the A.U.'s Darfur operation.

NATO allies had agreed late last month to consider offering logistical help to the African Union in Darfur following a written request from the A.U. Commission Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare.

While the initiative doesn't involve sending troops, officials have described it as the most significant NATO focus on an African security problem.

The A.U. is also seeking dozens of ambulances, operational helicopters, passenger and cargo aircraft as well as trucks for African troops operating in Darfur, a region the size of France.

The A.U. is trying to beef up its 2,270-strong peacekeeping force in Darfur to more than 7,700 troops by September, and 12,000 by next year. It has been bogged down by logistical problems and a lack of air support in the vast region.

Konare said last month that peacekeepers were now being targeted as part of a "new phenomenon" in the troubled region.

More sophisticated equipment, including infrared technology, will help end that problem and enable peacekeepers conduct 24-hour operations.

"Our forces go on missions and when night falls it disrupts our mission. Armed groups will take advantage of that. So this equipment is vital," Ba said.

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