By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States said on Thursday it submitted a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council that would authorize the deployment of 4,200 Ethiopian troops to Sudan's disputed Abyei region.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice also said that Washington was "gravely concerned about the humanitarian situation in Southern Kordofan," a state that borders south Sudan. U.S. President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that the situation there is dire.
"The United States has just tabled this morning a draft resolution to establish the interim security force for Abyei as requested by the government of Sudan and the government of south Sudan," she told reporters.
She said the draft "calls for the deployment of 4,200 Ethiopian national defense force personnel under the United Nations flag."
According to the draft resolution, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, the Ethiopian force would be called, the United Nations Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA).
"We are looking forward to discussions with council members in order to swiftly adopt a resolution authorizing this new interim security force, so that the agreement that the parties have reached, which is obviously urgent and fragile, can be implemented immediately and effectively," Rice said.
She declined to predict how long it would take, saying only that it would not happen overnight.
Council diplomats say that the Ethiopians will be separate from the 10,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force in Sudan, known as UNMIS, which Khartoum has said it wants out of the country by July 9, the day south Sudan is set to secede from the north.
There is also a much larger joint U.N.-African Union force in Sudan's conflict-torn western Darfur region called UNAMID, which means Sudan could soon have three separate U.N. peacekeeping missions on its soil. Planning for a U.N. force for the nascent southern Sudanese is also in the works.
UNMIS has deployed some troops in Abyei, which both the north and south hope to include in their future territories, but U.N. officials and diplomats say those troops have failed to provide adequate protection to civilians in the region.
As the south's secession approaches, unresolved conflicts in a number of parts of Sudan, which had a decades-long north-south civil war over religion, ethnicity and natural resources, threaten to mar the process.
Northern and southern Sudan have yet to resolve issues such as how to manage the oil industry and divide debt.
The north poured troops and tanks into Abyei on May 21, sparking a panicked exodus of more than 100,000 people who fled fighting in a region prized for its possible oil reserves.
The United Nations said on Wednesday that 73,000 people had fled violence in Southern Kordofan state after more than two weeks of fighting between the northern army and southern-aligned troops.
Fighting broke out in earnest on June 5 in Southern Kordofan -- a northern oil state that borders the south -- and has escalated to include artillery and warplanes as the north has tried to crush what it calls an armed rebellion.
(Editing by Sandra Maler and Jackie Frank)