Ethiopia, Bangladesh Pledge Helicopters For Darfur Peacekeeping Effort

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Ethiopia and Bangladesh are pledging helicopters to the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Darfur – an essential tool in international efforts to calm violence that has claimed more than 200,000 lives.

Officials say the countries are lending helicopters to fly troops and supplies around the region in western Sudan. Until now, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had been unable to get any county to commit even a single chopper.

Ban says the helicopters represent a starting point, but more help is needed. He says he has secured commitments from Sudan’s president to help in the deployment of the joint African Union-U.N. force.

More than 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been displaced by five years of fighting after ethnic African groups rebelled against the Arab-dominated national government. The U.N. mission took over peacekeeping January 1st, merging with an AU force that was too small and under-equipped to stop the fighting. At least 50 AU troops have been killed.