Home | News    Wednesday 4 August 2004

Call for British troops to be sent to Sudan

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By Christopher Adams and Rohit Jaggi

LONDON, Aug 04, 2004 (Financial Times) — The Conservatives have called for British troops to be sent to Sudan within days unless the humanitarian situation there improves.

John Bercow, Tory international development spokesman, warned yesterday that diplomatic efforts were "too little too late".

His comments followed the adoption of a United Nations security council resolution threatening action against Sudan over the crisis in its troubled Darfur region. The resolution came after the US watered down an earlier draft by removing the word "sanctions" in an effort to gain more support.

More than 1m people have been driven from their homes by the violence in Darfur, with some 2m in need of relief assistance, according to the UN. The US estimates at least 300,000 will die there in coming months from hunger and disease.

Britain has drawn up contingency plans for possible military intervention but is hoping that heavy diplomatic pressure will encourage the Sudanese government to take tougher action to stamp out the violence.

The Tories and Liberal Democrats believe that the UN resolution does not go far enough. They think a foreign military presence in the country may be necessary and argue that the European Union could provide troops.

Menzies Campbell, Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman, said that the resolution ought to have allowed for military intervention.

"This is a classic illustration of the circumstances in which a right of intervention ought to be exercised. The inevitable inference is that, because of Iraq and the controversy surrounding it, there is no political will to take the necessary steps to bring about stability in Sudan."

Mr Bercow, asked on the BBC’s Today programme how soon he thought troops should be deployed, replied: "I think within a matter of days if there is not demonstrable evidence of improvement. Unless there is evidence of real change, I believe that international action in the name of humanity is needed."

A leading aid agency working in Darfur applauded the Conservative call asa way of trying to inject some urgency into dealing with the crisis. "But lots of people would say that the Tory plan is not practical," it said.

The British army is already stretched and there is a risk of foreign troops being turned on by all sides in Sudan.

"But there are lots of things the British government could and should do," the agency said. "We don’t think the British government is taking the crisis seriously enough from a political point of view - although it has done a lot on aid."

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