The UN Security Council and the African Union (AU) said Wednesday they agreed on a timetable to hand over the AU peacekeeping mission in Sudan's western Darfur region to a UN force by January.
"What we both think is that a transition should take place and by the beginning of next year there should be a UN operation," said Britain's UN ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, who led a Security Council delegation on a one-day visit to the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa.
During the brief visit, the delegation discussed the handover of the African force to a UN mission.
"We agreed on how we would like to schedule that, of course we both understand this can only be done with the consent of the government in Khartoum," he told a press conference after the talks.
The AU peacekeeping force, known as the AU Mission in Sudan ( AMIS), is facing both under-financed and ill-equipped problems.
Parry said the force needed to be reinforced before the UN takeover.
The current 7,000-strong AU force will be added to the level of 10,000, said a AU official, who declined to be named.
The AU official said the additional troops will likely come from Rwanda, Nigeria and Ghana, and that NATO will likely provide helicopters and other logistical support.
The visit by UN Security Council came at a crucial time for Darfur, following the signing of May 5 peace agreement in Nigeria's capital Abuja.
On May 5, only the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) faction, headed by Minni Minnawi, signed the agreement. A rival SLA faction headed by Abdel Wahed al-Nur, as well as the Justice and Equality Movement, refused to sign the agreement, saying that it did not meet their requirements.