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U.N. triples Darfur peacekeepers

  • Story Highlights
  • Sudan agreed to bigger peacekeeping force after massive international pressure
  • Under resolution, commanders will be allowed to use force
  • Ban urges Sudanese government, rebel leaders to support mission
  • U.N. peacekeeping officials expect mission to be up and running within 60 days
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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The U.N. Security Council has more than tripled an existing African Union-led force for the Sudanese province of Darfur by authorizing a 26,000-member peacekeeping mission.

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A Sudanese boy at the Sheria Camp for Internally Displaced People in southern Darfur in July

The council's unanimous vote on Tuesday establishes a "hybrid" force of U.N. and AU troops and police, under AU command. Some countries have offered to contribute troops to the mission, said the U.N.'s peacekeeping agency, but it offered no specifics.

The current AU force of about 7,000 has been unable to stop the violence, and Sudan only agreed to allow a bigger peacekeeping force after massive international pressure.

Fighting between government-backed militias and rebel groups in Darfur has killed more than 200,000 people and driven about 2 million from their homes in the last four years. Fighting has continued unabated despite the signing of an AU-brokered peace agreement in May 2006.

Under the U.N. Security Council resolution, commanders will be allowed to use force to defend their troops and protect civilians and aid workers.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised the vote and urged member states to contribute troops and police to the effort.

"We must dedicate ourselves fully to deploying a mission which will make a clear and positive difference in the lives of the people of Darfur," Ban said. "They have a right to expect nothing less."

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He also called on the Sudanese government and rebel leaders to offer their "unequivocal and continuous support" for the mission, which U.N. peacekeeping officials hope to have up and running within 60 days.

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Aid agencies accuse the Sudanese government of impeding humanitarian aid to the people of Darfur, with the government-allied janjaweed militia attacking aid workers, looting food convoys and stealing vehicles.

The Bush administration has called the conflict "genocide," and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called the conflict "the greatest humanitarian disaster the world faces today." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Joe Vaccarello contributed to this report.

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