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Annan wants US troops for UN Darfur force

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Feb 9, 2006 (UNITED NATIONS) — The United States should contribute troops and equipment to a planned new U.N. force designed to stop the killings and rape in Sudan’s Darfur region, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Thursday.

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AU peacekeepers patrol during a visit by Romeo Dallaire, former U.N. force commander during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, to Sudan’s Darfur November 16, 2005. (Reuters)

Annan said he would press President George W. Bush on the issue when the two meet on Monday in Washington, along with expected discussions on Iran, Iraq and the controversy over cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammad.

Underfinanced African Union troops are now the only bulwark in Sudan against marauding militia and rebels, with some 7,000 monitors and soldiers on the ground. The U.N. Security Council this week authorized Annan to draw up contingency plans for U.N. peacekeepers to go into Darfur.

"It is not going to be easy for the big and powerful countries with armies to delegate (the job) to third world countries. They will have to play a part if we are going to stop the carnage that we see in Darfur," Annan told reporters.

"They will have to commit troops and equipment, or if they don’t want to do it, help us find the troops and equipment to be able to undertake the mandate they give us," he said.

Asked if Bush would be asked to participate, Annan said, "I will share with him the facts that I have shared with you, the needs that we have, and the countries that I think can supply those needs, and that will include the U.S."

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormick was noncommittal and said the issue was still under discussion.

"We are working very closely with the United Nations," he said. "We support a transition from a purely A.U. to a U.N. mission. It’s not intended to supplant the great efforts of the A.U. mission. It’s designed to augment what the A.U. has been able to do."

LOGISTIC SUPPORT

The United States has declared the Darfur conflict genocide and provided logistic support for the AU mission.

A U.N. force in Darfur would have to be very different from the current AU mission, said Annan, who will also have talks on Monday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Such a force would need to show the militias and others plundering villages and attacking refugee camps and humanitarian workers "that we have a force that is capable to respond, a force that is everywhere, and a force that will be there on time to prevent them from intimidating and killing the innocent civilians," he said.

The force would have to be highly mobile on the ground and also have air assets, so it could respond quickly and stop attacks rather than arrive "after the harm has been done," he said.

Civil war has raged in Darfur since February 2003, pitting Sudanese rebels against government forces and allied Arab militias. Tens of thousands have been killed and 2 million driven from their homes, forced to flee to miserable and vulnerable refugee camps in Sudan and Chad.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Andrei Denisov said Moscow supported the transformation of the African Union operation to a U.N. peacekeeping force.

He told a news conference he favored a wider arms embargo on nongovernmental forces throughout the Sudan but denied Russia had "red lines" on how far it would push the Khartoum government.

(Reuters)

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