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Volume 451: debated on Wednesday 1 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations have been made (a) by her and (b) on her behalf to the Government of Sudan regarding the Government military offensive in Darfur. (93195)

In mid-August the Government of Sudan began a military offensive targeting rebel militias and non-signatories of the Darfur Peace Agreement. We made immediate representations to the Government of Sudan in Khartoum, and to senior Sudanese officials, to halt the offensive. I raised my concerns about the offensive with the Egyptian Government and the League of Arab States during a visit to Egypt on 7 September. They have subsequently engaged the Government of Sudan to raise these concerns.

During the UN General Assembly ministerial week in New York from 18 to 22 September, my noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, other Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers and I raised with African, Arab, Security Council and other Foreign Ministers the need for concerted action by the international community to halt the Sudanese military offensive, secure the deployment of a UN force, and to ensure a political solution in Darfur. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development raised the need for such action by the Government of Sudan with Sudanese Presidential Adviser Dr. Ghazi Salaheddin, when they met on 21 September. European Commission President Barroso also delivered this message during a call on President Bashir when he visited on 30 September. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development is planning a visit to Sudan later this month and we will continue to make such representations directly through our embassy in Khartoum.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what areas have been identified for the enhancing of the capability and resources of the African Union Mission in Darfur; and what role is planned for the UK. (93196)

The UK is a leading supporter of the African Union Mission in Darfur (AMIS). We were its first donor, and have to date provided £52 million of assistance. This has been used for budgetary support, vehicles and other equipment, and to airlift troops to and from Darfur. The African Union has now decided to increase the strength of AMIS by two battalions (approximately 1,200 men). We stand ready to assist them in this. Meanwhile, at our urging, the UN is helping to bolster AMIS prior to any transition to a UN force. The UN will provide much-needed planning and logistics capability with the deployment of 163 staff officers to assist the military and civilian police wings of AMIS as well as its senior management. The UN will provide a further 36 armoured personnel carriers and a range of other equipment to help improve AMIS effectiveness. We are looking at what personnel the United Kingdom can provide to the UN assistance package.