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US drive stalls for quick UN vote on Darfur force

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UNITED NATIONS, Feb 24 (Reuters) The United States has found no support in the UN Security Council for a resolution before the end of this month on a future UN force in Sudan's Darfur region, US Ambassador John Bolton said.

The Bush administration has been pushing the 15-nation council to quickly adopt a resolution calling for an international peacekeeping force to help end the violence in Darfur, taking over from some 7,000 African Union troops already there.

But at a meeting yesterday, all other council members argued a resolution should come only after African Union foreign ministers make a final decision on a handover, expected in early March, said diplomats present at that meeting.

Prior to an AU move, everyone but Washington ''agreed the council shouldn't be seen to be prejudging that decision,'' said one council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because the meeting took place behind closed doors.

''There's not a lot of enthusiasm about it from anybody else on the council,'' acknowledged Bolton, who holds the council's rotating presidency through the end of this month. ''If there is no resolution in February, it won't be because we didn't try as hard as we could.'' ''Our view is that the deteriorating security situation in Darfur requires us to move forward,'' Bolton said, predicting the Sudanese government in Khartoum as well as the African Union would eventually agree to a shift to a U.N. force.

The head of the AU mission in Sudan, Baba Gana Kingibe, acknowledged as much on Wednesday saying in a statement the transition to a UN mission was inevitable in the long run.

But Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol, speaking the same day, said his government rejected such a plan.

The United Nations has already begun contingency planning for a takeover, but the planning process is expected to take a few weeks, and Bolton said he hoped that process, as well, could be sped up.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than 2 million herded into camps during more than three years of fighting in the remote western Sudanese region.

The United States, under growing pressure from religious groups to do more for Darfur, says genocide is taking place there with rape, looting and killing by Arab militias known as the Janjaweed.

The West accuses the government of backing the militias as proxy fighters against non-Arab rebels who took up arms in early 2003 after accusing the authorities of neglect.

Khartoum denies the accusation.

Reuters PDS VP0645

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