Home | News    Wednesday 22 June 2005

US opposes Western troops in Darfur - Zoellick

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By GEORGE GEDDA

WASHINGTON, June 22, 2005 (AP) — The Bush administration is opposed to the dispatch of U.S. or European forces to help enhance security in Sudan’s Darfur region because they could be vulnerable to attack by terrorists, the No. 2 State Department official said Wednesday.

US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick.

The region is populated by "some bloodthirsty, cold-hearted killers," Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick said, mentioning Somalia in particular as one possible source.

Zoellick was asked about the potential for non-African peacekeeping presence in Darfur during a House International Relations Committee hearing on Sudan.

The security situation in the region remains grim despite a steady growth in African Union troops. Present plans call for the AU to deploy 7,700 in the region from the current total of 2,700, Zoellick said.

In a report issued in late May, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said NATO would be the most suitable organization to provide and lead additional troops that may be necessary if the AU is unable to stop the killing in Darfur.

NATO and the European Union now provide support in transport, logistics and planning for Darfur operations.

Zoellick said any expansion in these roles to an on-the-ground presence could lead to charges by some Africans that "the U.S. or the colonial powers are telling Sudan what to do."

Rep. Barbara Lee, a Democrat, suggested that non-African troops in Sudan might be appropriate given recent precedents. She noted that British forces were sent to Sierra Leone to restore peace several years ago and that French and Belgian troops have been deployed in the Congo.

Many committee members expressed horror over the continuing suffering in Darfur that persists well over a year after the region became the focus of international attention.

Tens of thousands of people in Darfur have been killed and more than 2 million others have been displaced from their homes during a civil conflict that began in February 2003.

Most of the casualties have resulted from a brutal counterinsurgency carried out by Arab militias with backing from the Khartoum government.

Zoellick said it was vitally important that the African Union force succeed not only for the sake of the beleaguered victims in Darfur but also for other regions of Africa that may be beset by conflict.

The African Union has taken on the challenge of Darfur, Zoellick said, "in the belief that Africans are needed to solve African problems."

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