LAST week's UN Security Council Resolution authorising a 20'000-plus peacekeeping force for Darfur was welcome after months of foot-dragging by China which has its own agenda in Sudan. However, it would be unwise to expect rapid results from this resolution. To begin with, peacekeeping can only take place if peace has first been established and that is far from being the case in Darfur. Oxfam said yesterday that the security situation there has deteriorated to such an extent that humanitarian organisations find it very difficult to operate without risking the lives of their staff. Howewever, the UN's readiness to provide a peacekeeping force and Sudan's reluctant acceptance of the need for it mean that there is a point to peace negotiations which had not previously existed.

That is why this weekend in Arusha, Tanzania, representatives of at least a dozen factions active in Darfur are attending a UN-convened meeting to try to reach an understanding that might lead to a comprehensive ceasefire.

The leaders of these factions had to be located in 16 different places and invited to attend the talks in Arusha; if only one is absent any deal done might not hold for more than a few days. It is a formidable task for the UN envoy Jan Eliasson who saw the Darfur Peace Agreement he negotiated a year ago eventually rejected by two of the three main rebel groups in Darfur. The chances are better this time but nothing is certain.