UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ The United Nations and African Union are pledging to move ``expeditiously'' to deploy 3,000 U.N. peacekeepers to Darfur while intensifying efforts to achieve a political settlement, officials said.
The moves announced Tuesday to speed deployment came as a confidential U.N. report charged that the government of Sudan has been flying arms and heavy military equipment into Darfur in violation of Security Council resolutions, according to a report in The New York Times.
Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said whether the 3,000 troops and equipment can be deployed by the end of June depends on what countries come forward to contribute troops. A troop contributors meeting is scheduled for Friday.
At the end of two days of meetings, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and AU chief executive Alpha Oumar Konare asked their envoys who have been trying to promote a political settlement to prepare ``a roadmap'' to bring all rebel groups to the peace table.
``There will be a two-track approach,'' Ban said. The U.N. and AU want ``a more detailed and workable roadmap for a political process, so that this political process and military operation can proceed hand-in-hand.''
After five months of stalling, Sudan sent a letter to Ban just before the start of Monday's AU-U.N. meeting giving a green light for the deployment of the U.N.'s so-called ``heavy support package'' to help the beleaguered 7,000-strong African Union force in Darfur. It includes 2,250 U.N. troops, 750 international police, and logistical and aviation equipment including six helicopter gunships which Khartoum initially opposed.
The heavy support package is the second phase of a U.N. plan. Ban and Konare made clear they want it to be followed by deployment of the third and final phase _ a 20,000-strong ``hybrid'' U.N.-AU force.
More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.2 million forced to flee their homes in the four-year conflict in Darfur, which began when rebels from ethnic African tribes rose up against the central government. The government is accused of responding by unleashing the janjaweed militias of Arab nomads _ blamed for indiscriminate killing. The government denies the charges.
According to The New York Times, the confidential report said that military planes used by Sudan to transport the arms were painted white to disguise them as United Nations or African Union aircraft and were being used for aerial surveillance and bombardments of villages, in addition to cargo transport.
The report was compiled by a five-person panel responsible for helping the Security Council's sanctions committee monitor compliance with resolutions on Darfur. The newspaper said it obtained the report from a diplomat from a Security Council member nations.
The panel's report said the Khartoum government had done little to disband armed groups and described a nighttime attack by men wearing Sudanese armed forces uniforms and traveling in 60 Land Cruisers mounted with rocket propelled grenades and machine guns on a village, according to the paper.
Sudanese officials also were not enforcing the travel ban and assets freeze imposed by the Security Council last year on four individuals, it said.
The report said that various rebel groups fighting the government were also illegally shipping weapons, regularly violating border controls between Sudan and Chad and extending lawlessness throughout the immediate region and attacking peacekeepers and aid workers.
At U.N. headquarters, Ban said it was important to turn the agreement on the heavy support package into action on the ground.
``Both the United Nations and African Union have agreed and intend to move swiftly for the implementation of this agreement so that we can finish the heavy support package and move on to the third phase, finally deploying a hybrid operation in Darfur,'' he said.
``We have also agreed to intensify our political process, embracing all rebel leaders,'' Ban said. ``We hope that the government of Sudan and the rebel groups will be committed to an ongoing political process.''
The Sudanese government and one of Darfur's rebel factions signed the Darfur Peace Agreement in May 2006, but many other rebel groups refused.
Ban and Konare have both stressed that without a political settlement, there will never be peace in Darfur. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's government has a history of finding loopholes in agreements with the U.N. and others.
Said Djinnit, the AU's commissioner for peace and security, said the African Union had hoped the hybrid force would be deployed by the end of June, when the Security Council mandate for the AU force ends.
But Djinnit said this will not be possible because the heavy support package has to be deployed first _ which a U.N. official estimated will take months, not weeks _ and there is still ``a lot of work to do to finalize the negotiations between the AU and the U.N. on the hybrid operations, and then to consult with Sudan on that so that we reach a common understanding.''
In the meantime, Djinnit said, the African Union is facing ``a serious financial crisis'' because it needs between $23 to $25 million a month to sustain its force. He urged donors to support the AU mission.