Home | News    Thursday 26 October 2006

US’s Rice confers with UN’s Annan as Darfur deteriorates

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Oct 25, 2006 (WASHINGTON) — The Bush administration declared Wednesday the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan is in a dangerous downward spiral.

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US Condoleezza Rice

There was no indication, however, that President Omar el-Bashir was relenting in his refusal to accept a U.N. peacekeeping force despite reassurances the peacekeepers would not go after government leaders.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice conferred by telephone with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Afterward, Rice’s spokesman, Sean McCormack, said, "We are very concerned about the situation there. It is not getting any better. We are concerned that it could well be getting worse."

Rice and Annan discussed the forced expulsion of Jan Pronk, Annan’s top aide in Sudan, and the importance of having the post filled quickly, either with Pronk or another U.N. diplomat, McCormack said. Rice called the ouster "extremely unfortunate," McCormack said.

Rice and Stephen Hadley, the U.S. national security adviser, met at the White House late Tuesday with Andrew Natsios, Rice’s envoy to Sudan, who also met in Cairo, Egypt, with Arab League diplomats.

Even while el-Bashir refuses to admit a U.N. peacekeeping force to take over from undermanned African Union peacekeepers, the United States is soliciting other countries for support in Darfur, particularly Sudan’s neighbors and Arab governments.

But el-Bashir is adamantly against what he calls "foreign intervention."

"We have promised before God not to let Darfurians’ suffering be a pretext for foreign intervention or a subject for hostile media," el-Bashir was quoted as saying Tuesday.

The Sudanese leader and other top officials have said they are concerned that the U.N. force could be used to track down and arrest leaders of the Sudanese government, McCormack said.

"We have said that this is not the mandate of this U.N., force," he said, and the United States has asked Arab governments to reassure them on that score.

"We ask them to do that in every way that they possibly can," McCormack said.

The conflict in Darfur between government-backed Arab militia and the non-Arab population has killed about 200,000 people in three years and displaced some 2.5 million people.

(AP)

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