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Ex-US officials urge military action against Sudan over Darfur

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Oc 2, 2006 (WASHINGTON) — Two former senior US officials and a sitting congressman called Monday for the US to lead military strikes against Sudan if Khartoum persists in its refusal to allow UN peacekeepers into its Darfur region.

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People gathered during a meeting with members of the Security Council at the Gouroukoun camp for IDP’s, in Goz Beida, Chad, June 10, 2006 (Reuters).

"It’s time to get tough with Sudan," Anthony Lake, who served as president Bill Clinton’s National Security Advisor, former assistant secretary of state for Africa Susan Rice and Democratic representative Donald Payne (news, bio, voting record) wrote in an opinion piece in Monday’s Washington Post.

The three said Sudan President Omar al-Beshir’s Arab-led government had launched a major new offensive against rebels in Darfur, threatening to unleash a "second wave of genocide" against the region’s ethnic African population.

"After three years of fruitless negotiation and feckless rhetoric, it’s time to go beyond unenforced UN resolutions to a new kind of resolution: the firm resolve to act," they said.

Beshir has adamantly refused to comply with a UN resolution calling on Sudan to accept the deployment of 22,000 UN peacekeepers in Darfur, where at least 200,000 people have been killed in more than three years of fighting between rebels and Arab militia funded by the government.

US President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have issued thinly veiled threats to take tougher action if Sudan continues to reject the peacekeepers.

But they have declined to lay out just what they plan to do beyond naming a special envoy for Darfur, former USAID administrator Andrew Natsios, who met with Bush on Monday.

"An envoy’s role is to negotiate, but the Sudanese have left nothing to negotiate," Rice, Lake and Payne said of Natsios’ appointment.

The trio note that China, a major purchaser of Sudanese oil, is very unlikely to back a new UN resolution either ordering a unilateral deployment of peacekeepers to Darfur or imposing sanctions on Khartoum.

And they argue that even if the Security Council were to mandate tougher action, it would take months to implement.

"By then, Sudan will have completed its second wave of genocide in Darfur," they said.

The United States should push now for a new UN resolution giving Sudan an ultimatum to accept the unconditional deployment of a UN force within a week or face military consequences, they said.

If that fails, the United States, "preferably with NATO involvement and African political support", should strike Sudanese airfields, aircraft and other military assets and blockade Port Sudan, through which Sudan’s oil exports flow, they said.

"Then UN troops would deploy — by force, if necessary, with US and NATO backing," they said.

The three compared such action to the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia to halt attacks on the ethnic Albanian minority of Kosovo, which was carried out without UN backing but which ended the violence and led to the world body deploying a mission to administer the Serbian province.

"The real question is this," the trio wrote, "Will we use force to save Africans in Darfur as we did to save Europeans in Kosovo?"

(AFP/ST)

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