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Rebels claim a victory against Sudan's Army in Darfur clash

It is the second clash between rebels and the Army in the past week. A 26,000-strong UN peacekeeping force is to be deployed in January

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Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Council Friday dissolved a group of experts meant to monitor abuses in the region following demands from African countries to "ease political pressure on Sudan," reports the Associated Press.

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The unanimous decision to halt the mission of the seven [human] rights experts comes a week after the group accused Sudan of failing to protect civilians in Darfur from rape, torture and other violence.
The task of overseeing the Sudanese government's progress in protecting human rights in Darfur will now fall to the U.N.'s special envoy to Sudan, Simar Samar, whose mandate was extended for a year.
Rights groups condemned the decision not to renew the experts' mandate.
"There has been an unacceptable compromise by the council on the issue of Darfur," Julie de Rivero of the New York-based Human Rights Watch told reporters.

A senior officer with the African Union peacekeeping force was also attacked Friday by gunmen who wounded his driver, reports the Agence France-Presse. The target was a Ghanaian colonel in north Darfur, according to a spokesperson.

In preparation for the deployment of UN peacekeepers, President Bush approved transferring 34 US-operated camps and related assets to the UN mission, reports Reuters.

The United States on Jan. 1 will turn over about $40 million worth of camp equipment, communications and other assets that it has been operating and maintaining since 2004, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

Nevertheless, questions have been raised about the preparedness and ability of the new UN force to stop the bloodshed in the region. Writing in the Daily Star, Darfur expert Julie Flint says the force is nowhere near ready.

With less than a month to go before the force is due to deploy, senior United Nations officials say the best-case scenario is for 6,500 troops to be in Darfur by January 1, 2008, the date of the official transition from the present 7,000-man African Union force to a "hybrid" UN-AU force (UNAMID). Of the 24 helicopters that are needed, not one has been forthcoming. The Sudanese regime is throwing up obstacle after obstacle, as it promised it would.
... No matter what UN officials say publicly, many in the organization believe that the biggest problem with UNAMID is UNAMID itself. It is, they say, "the world's worst peacekeeping operation" - too big, too top-heavy, too disorganized and with no strategic plan. Just how does the force plan to "protect" almost 2.5 million displaced people, even if, miraculously, it reaches full strength and does not confine itself to base at the first hint of trouble?
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