United Nations — Sudan's president said he accepts a U.N. package to help end escalating violence in Darfur and is ready to discuss a cease-fire, according to a letter circulated Tuesday.
President Omar al-Bashir said in the letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that Sudan is ready to immediately implement two recent agreements endorsing a three-step U.N. plan to strengthen the beleaguered 7,000-strong African Union force in the vast western region of the country.
Al-Bashir also dropped his opposition to a hybrid AU-U.N. force that would be deployed as the final step in the peace plan.
However, U.N. Security Council diplomats cautioned that al-Bashir remains opposed to any large-scale deployment of U.N. troops and has backtracked on agreements regarding Darfur in the past. The letter also leaves unresolved the size and command of the hybrid force.
Al-Bashir rejects a Security Council resolution adopted in August that called for more than 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers to replace the AU force, which has been unable to stop the violence that has killed more than 200,000 people and left 2.5 million displaced in Darfur since February 2003.
The Sudanese president also previously opposed the deployment of U.N. troops as part of a hybrid force, claiming it would compromise Sudan's sovereignty.
In his letter to Annan, however, al-Bashir said the conclusions of a Nov. 16 meeting of key Sudanese and international diplomats in Ethiopia and a Nov. 30 AU summit in Nigeria, where the hybrid force was endorsed, "constitute a viable framework for peaceful settlement to the conflict in Darfur."