United Nations: A UN team is in Sudan to discuss Khartoum`s call to shut down a UN-AU mission in Darfur that has been trying to investigate rape allegations involving Sudanese troops, the UN peacekeeping chief said Thursday.
The team is holding talks on an "exit strategy" for the 16,000-strong force that was set up in 2007 to protect civilians and secure aid to Darfur, Herve Ladsous told the UN Security Council.
"It`s not about leaving tomorrow but rather about agreeing on a strategy," Ladsous said.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Sunday called for a clear plan to end the joint African Union-United Nations mission, saying the peacekeepers had become a "burden."
Relations between Khartoum and UNAMID have been strained since the mission tried to investigate a report from a local news website that soldiers raped 200 women in the village of Tabit on October 31.
UNAMID said Sudanese soldiers blocked its first attempt to enter the village and when it did reach Tabit on November 9, it found no evidence to support the claims, which Sudan has repeatedly denied.
But an internal report from UNAMID said Sudanese soldiers had intimidated villagers in Tabit as the peacekeepers tried to interview them.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council have called on Khartoum to allow the peacekeepers to return to the village and investigate the allegations.
Ladsous said that UNAMID peacekeepers were told last week that they could not address local authorities directly without first presenting a request to the foreign ministry.
Sudan`s Ambassador Rahmatallah Mohammad Osman told the council that no deadline had been set for the mission to leave, but that it was time to consider options.
"We are expecting peace in Darfur soon and we have to prepare for that peace," he said.
The UN says more than 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur and two million displaced since 2003.
Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes during the conflict in the region.