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UN Sponsoring Rebel Unity Talks in Darfur

Today’s New York Times write-up of Ban’s first visit to Sudan underscores a dilemma faced by the proposed African Union-United Nations hybrid force for Darfur. Namely, that for the peacekeepers to deploy to Darfur, there must first be some semblance of a peace to keep. Of course, this requires foremost the cooperation of the central government and Darfuri rebels. But in Darfur the peace process is complicated by the fact that the militias opposing the central government are fractious.

When the rebellion broke out in Darfur in 2003, the rebels were largely unified. But since then, the rebels have split into various factions with disparate leadership and command structures. For a comprehensive peace agreement with Khartoum to take hold, the rebels first must make peace among themselves. To that end, the Times reports that Ban offered UN support for talks on rebel unity.

Mr. Ban said he would extend an invitation to the eight major rebel groups involved in the fighting in Darfur for a “full-fledged peace conference” this fall. The groups met last month in Arusha, Tanzania, and came up with a framework for sharing power and resources that the United Nations says lays a basis for talks with the government.

The UN is certainly the right platform to convene such a meeting. But member states too should be ready and willing to make this conference successful by incentivizing rebel unity. It is only when a political process between the rebel groups is underway that talks between the government and Darfuri rebels can make real headway.

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Ban kicks off first visit to Sudan

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Sudan yesterday to check on the progress made in Darfur.

“I want to see for myself the plight of those we seek to help, and the conditions under which our peacekeepers in Darfur will operate,” Ban said.

Mr. Ban’s visit comes just weeks after the Security Council authorized a hybrid force, which will have some 26,000 peacekeepers at full deployment, to quell the violence in Darfur, where at least 200,000 people have died and more than two million others forced to flee their homes since 2003 because of fighting between rebel groups, Sudanese Government forces and allied Janjaweed militias.

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Hans Blix Makes Sense…Again

I paraphrase, but former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix (now a private citizen) suggests that the international community apply the same diplomatic strategy that worked with North Korean to Iran. That is, offer Iran a security guarantee and extend the promise of normalized relations in exchange for the verifiable dismantling of Iran’s uranium enrichment program. He also suggested that the international community work toward a uranium enrichment and plutonium production freeze in the Middle East.

“The powers negotiating … are willing to give North Korea a guarantee … both against attack from abroad and, implicit in that, a guarantee against regime change,” he said.

North Korea was also offered normalization of relations with Japan and the U.S.

“These two elements have not been tried to my knowledge in the case of Iran,” Blix said.

[snip]

“They would commit themselves for some period of time not to build enrichment plants, so Iran would not be alone … the others would be there as well,” Blix said.

“It would also mean Israel, that has (plutonium-based) nuclear weapons, would not produce more plutonium, could not make more bombs on the basis of that plutonium,” he said.

Sound advice from someone who has a proven track record on these issues. Unlike, say, folks at the Weekly Standard.

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UNICEF rushing emergency aid to cholera victims in Iraq

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is providing assistance to thousands of victims of a cholera outbreak in northern Iraq.

Yesterday the World Health Organization (WHO), which is leading the UN response to the outbreak, reported that Sulemaniyah governorate experienced close to 5,000 cases since 10 August, with 10 deaths reported and 51 confirmed cases in Kirkuk. Two hospitals in the stricken governorate also reported treating 2,000 diarrhoea cases.

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New IAEA Report on Iran

In a report out today, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirms that, as expected, Iran’s progress on uranium enrichment and plutonium production is moving along sluggishly. Further, it seems that some in the Iranian ruling elite are doubting the political utility of pursuing the nuclear program full steam a head. From the AP:

…while Iran continued to expand its uranium enrichment program, it was doing so much more slowly than expected, and had produced only negligible amounts of nuclear fuel that was far below the level usable for nuclear warheads.

One of the U.N. officials also noted that construction of the plutonium-producing reactor at the city of Arak had slowed in recent months.

He said that “design difficulties, getting equipment, materials and components, and fuel technology, plus perhaps some political considerations,” could be causing the delay.

The allusion to “political considerations” appeared linked to reports that Iranian officials might be considering stopping construction of the Arak reactor in another sign of good will calculated to blunt the threat of new U.N. sanctions.

Citing unidentified Iranian sources, Jane’s Defense Weekly earlier this week said some members of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council were pushing for such a move.

Remember this little nugget the next time the war chorus heaps scorn on the diplomatic process and urges a swift military confrontation. There is still plenty of time for diplomacy to work. That is, as long as we want it to work.

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UN envoy to Liberia calls for an end of violence against women

The United Nations envoy to Liberia has called for an end to violence against women, stressing the importance of security.

Special Representative of the Secretary-General Alan Doss remarked yesterday, “It does not matter where you are in Liberia, your security is important. River Gee County may be a long way from Monrovia but you are not forgotten.”

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