Home | News    Saturday 18 February 2006

Bush: double peacekeeping troops needed in Darfur

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Feb 17, 2006 (TAMPA, Florida) — President George W. Bush said on Friday that stemming bloodshed in Sudan’s Darfur region may require double the number of international peacekeepers there and a NATO organizational role.

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George W Bush

Underfinanced African Union troops are the only bulwark in Sudan against marauding militia and rebels, with some 7,000 monitors and soldiers on the ground.

Bush held talks on Monday with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Sudan, where a conflict between the Sudanese government and two rebel movements has killed tens of thousands of people and left more than 2 million homeless.

"I’m in the process now of working with a variety of folks to encourage there to be more troops, probably under the United Nations," Bush said.

"But it’s going to require, I think, a NATO stewardship, planning, facilitating, organizing — probably double the number of peacekeepers that are there now," he said during a question-and-answer session with a friendly audience in Florida.

Bush spoke after a visit to the U.S. military Central Command, where he held talks with commanders about Iraq. He shed no new light on when U.S. troops might be reduced in Iraq, repeating it would be up to commanders on the ground.

Bush was not specific on what NATO role he envisioned in Darfur, but he spoke earlier in the day to NATO Secretary- General Yaap de Hoop Scheffer. White House spokesman Trent Duffy said they discussed "what additional actions NATO might take in the future" for Darfur.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in Darfur since mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003, accusing the central government of neglect. Khartoum denies U.S. charges of genocide but the International Criminal Court is investigating suspected war crimes there.

In Washington, Kansas Republican Sen. Sam Brownback and Delaware Democratic Sen. Joe Biden said they had introduced a resolution in the U.S. Congress calling for NATO troops to help the African Union "stop the genocide" in the Darfur region.

They said the resolution urged Bush to advocate sending NATO troops — including Americans if need be — to work in support of the African Union, and that NATO should enforce a no-fly zone in Darfur.

"The world has known for far too long of the atrocities in Darfur. We must do more than declare a genocide: we must do all we can to stop the killings, and we must do it now," said Brownback.

NATO diplomats said in Brussels this week the allies would look kindly on new appeals for help for African troops in Sudan but ruled out for now a major deployment of their own.

The U.N. Security Council has authorized Annan to draw up contingency plans for U.N. peacekeepers to go into Darfur.

Annan has indicated that U.S. help in planning was not enough and emphasized he needed sophisticated logistics, such as air support and intelligence so that soldiers could get to a trouble spots in time.

Washington has been noncommittal on troops for such a mission. If there were to be any significant deployment of U.S. troops in Darfur, it would be Washington’s first major foray into African peacekeeping since it quit Somalia in 1994.

(Reuters)

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