UN orders Darfur force review

The UN Security Council on Tuesday called for a review of the UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur which has faced mounting deadly attacks.

Seven Tanzanian peacekeepers were killed this month in the latest ambush on the force. But the Security Council is also concerned at the failure of attempts to negotiate an end to the decade old conflict in the western Sudanese region.

Hundreds of fighters have been killed in a surge of battles between rival tribes -- including about 130 in one clash in west Darfur Monday -- and the UN estimates that 300,000 people have fled their homes this year.

The 15-member council unanimously approved a resolution which extended the mandate of the African Union-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) until August 2014.

It also ordered UN leader Ban Ki-moon to review the operation of the force, which has 19,000 troops and police, and recommend changes by February.

While UNAMID has been hit by tragedies such as the death of the Tanzanian peacekeepers on July 13, it has also faced criticism that it has not used its full powers to counter an upsurge in violence over the past two years.

The Security Council resolution said that Ban should carry out "a detailed and forward-looking review of UNAMID's progress" in meeting its goals.

The council also said the UN force should "make full use of its mandate and capabilities" to protect civilians and called for a "proactive military deployment and increased patrols in areas at high risk of conflict."

The resolution was drawn up by Britain, whose UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said: "It's got stronger language on the need for the troop contributing countries to be robust and it opens up the possibility for those who attack UNAMID convoys to be sanctioned."

Lyall Grant said a "substantive" new look at the $1.5 billion a year UN mission was needed because of the changes in Darfur.

The Security Council "insisted" on a review because "the security situation has clearly deteriorated in Darfur, there is a new leadership of the mission and we think that it is time ... to take stock of how UNAMID has achieved its objectives and to make recommendations on making UNAMID more effective in the future," the envoy told AFP after the meeting.

While Darfur rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government 10 years ago, UNAMID was first deployed in 2008.

"Given where we were 10 years ago and where we are now in Darfur, is it (UNAMID) still fit for purpose and going forward how can we make it as effective and efficient as possible," Lyall Grant added.

UNAMID has faced criticism that it has not been aggressive enough in carrying out its mission, according to diplomats.

Many of the attacks it has faced this year has been to take UN weapons and vehicles.

Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete called for a "fresh look" at the way the Darfur peacekeepers operate after the July ambush, the worst attack on UNAMID since it was launched.

UNAMID also has a political mission to nurture a peace accord between rebel groups and the government. But few rebel groups have signed up to a successive peace initiatives launched by the African Union and UN.