U.N. to Hold a Tight Rein in Darfur; Worried over Abuses by Forces

Article excerpt

Byline: David R. Sands, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

U.N. peacekeepers deploying to Darfur - the largest such mission in the world body's history - will be under heavy scrutiny because of widely publicized abuses in recent missions, the American head of the peacekeeping agency acknowledged yesterday.

"You bet I am focused on that," said Jane Holl Lute, U.N. assistant secretary-general in charge of peacekeeping operations, during a Washington visit.

"Unlike any other national military around the world, the U.N. had come under intense scrutiny - maybe rightly so - for the misbehavior of its troops," said Mrs. Holl Lute, meeting with a small group of reporters. "It's clear and it's something we have internalized that we are being held to the highest standards."

Mrs. Holl Lute was in Washington to brief the Bush administration and private aid groups on the status of the mission in Sudan's Darfur region. The United States has accused Sudan of genocide in a brutal civil war with Darfur separatist groups that has killed an estimated 200,000 and left more than 2 million people homeless.

Under a U.N. Security Council resolution, some 7,000 African Union troops now in Darfur will be succeeded by a joint U.N.-AU force that will include nearly 20,000 soldiers from African and non-African nations, an international police force numbering more than 6,400 and more than 5,000 civilian staffers.

Charges of abuse by U.N. "blue helmets" were thrust into the spotlight after an internal study in 2005 found that U.N. peacekeepers in Congo demanded sexual favors from local women and girls. According to U.N. statistics, 197 U.N. staffers and soldiers were either sent home, dismissed or had their contract work ended for suspected sexual abuses between 2004 and June 30, 2007.

The issue flared again in July

amid new charges that Moroccan U.N. peacekeepers in the Ivory Coast were sexually abusing girls.

There will be "zero tolerance and zero complacency" over such abuses with the Darfur force, Mrs. …