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US calls for speedy UN resolution on Darfur

Written by: Staff

UNITED NATIONS, May 9 (Reuters) US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice strongly urged the UN Security Council today to move fast to get UN peacekeepers into Darfur, saying it was time to end western Sudan's ''long nightmare.'' Repeating the US view that genocide was occurring in Darfur, Rice said the United Nations must pass a strong resolution to help implement last week's Darfur peace deal signed in Abuja, Nigeria.

''With the signing of the Darfur peace agreement, we really have an opportunity to help end the long nightmare that has befallen the people of Darfur,'' Rice said at a Security Council meeting she requested on Sudan that was addressed by nine foreign ministers from the 15 member nations.

''The United States urges the Security Council to quickly pass a resolution that we circulated yesterday,'' she added, referring to a resolution seeking quick action to send U.N.

peacekeepers to help African forces in Darfur.

On Friday, the United States helped African Union mediators broker a deal between Sudan's government and Darfur's main rebel group after three years of fighting. Two smaller groups have not agreed to the accord.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said rebel leaders who had not yet signed should be pressed to do so, adding that the immediate U.N. priority must be military planning.

''This is not a moment for anyone to bask in congratulations or rest on their hands. Darfur is still far from being at peace,'' he said.

While the United States is anxious for a U.N. force to go to Sudan, Khartoum still has not agreed to allow the world body to supplement about 7,000 African troops struggling to keep the peace in an area the size of France.

Annan said he had written to Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, urging him to accept U.N. help. Yesterday, President George W. Bush also called Bashir to press him to allow in U.N.

troops, and some from NATO.

China, a close Khartoum ally, said a U.N. force should go in only if the African Union agrees and only to help Sudan's government and other factions implement the peace deal.

Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing also said it was ''imperative'' that the international community immediately increase relief funds for Darfur. U.N. aid groups have said they are running out of funds and that the Khartoum government has often impeded the distribution of goods.

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett joined other foreign ministers in urging more nations to come forward with funding for Darfur, where she said the humanitarian situation was getting worse.

Rebels took up arms in early 2003 in ethnically mixed Darfur over what they saw as neglect by the Arab-dominated central government. Khartoum used militias, drawn from Arab tribes, to crush the rebellion and a campaign of arson, looting and rape ensued, with tens of thousands of lives lost.

Reuters PDS VP0205

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