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Rice urges world to act now and stop Darfur atrocities

Written by: Staff

Washington, Apr 13: The world must act now to end the atrocities in Darfur and Sudan's government should accept it has failed to protect its own people and let a U N mission intervene, U S Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.

Speaking after meeting Canada's Foreign Minister yesterday, where the two discussed Darfur and other issues, Rice insisted there must be ''movement'' in getting a U N force to supplement African troops struggling to stop the killing and rights abuses in Sudan's Darfur region.

''I understand that the Sudan government sometimes says that they don't favor this, but they have failed in their obligation to protect the people of Darfur and they clearly need international help,'' said Rice.

''The world needs to act,'' she said. ''We really can't afford to wait.'' The United States has said the atrocities in Darfur amount to genocide, an accusation Khartoum rejects.

U N military experts are planning for a peacekeeping force in western Darfur and the Security Council this week told Sudan's government and rebels to make peace in Darfur by April 30.

Marauding Militias

The Sudanese government has not agreed to a future U N mission in Darfur, where conflict erupted in early 2003 when mostly non-Arab tribes took up arms, accusing the Arab-dominated Khartoum government of neglect.

The government retaliated by arming mainly Arab militias, known as Janjaweed, who began a campaign of murder, rape, arson and plunder that drove 2 million villagers into squalid camps.

Khartoum denies responsibility.

Struggling from a lack of funds, about 7,000 troops from the African Union have been trying to keep the peace in Darfur, a region about the size of Texas.

''Everyone recognizes that we need a more robust force that's going to come from the U N,'' said Rice. ''Everyone will continue to press the Sudanese government.'' Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay said his country, which provided armored troop carriers in Darfur, had not been asked to put troops on the ground.

''I would agree that blue helmets (U N peacekeepers) are the solution but I am not sure that ... North American or European soldiers should be wearing those helmets,'' he said.

The United States has said it is premature to offer its own forces. Most of U N peacekeepers are expected to come from Africa and some Asian countries, with North America and Europe helping with funding, intelligence and logistics.

Washington has become increasingly upset with the Sudanese government and Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick chided Khartoum for blocking visas to U N officials to visit Darfur, refusing access to refugee camps and failing to agree to the U N mission.

In an address to the Brookings Institution, a Washingtonthink tank, Zoellick said conditions were extraordinarily fragile in Darfur, which was further destabilized by violence spilling over from neighboring Chad.

He said aid workers' lives were at risk as their convoys were raided and the Norwegian Refugee Council had been barred from access to refugee camps.

Zoellick said it was in the Sudanese government's interests to allow the international community to intervene in Darfur.

''You either get the approval of the government ... or you invade and that is a very big, serious challenge,'' said Zoellick, who later made clear he was not suggesting an invasion of Sudan but rather that their cooperation was preferable to an invasion.


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