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US lawmakers call on world to provide choppers for Darfur force

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January 28, 2008 (WASHINGTON) — Two prominent Senators today introduced a resolution urging the international community to provide the necessary resources for the Darfur peacekeeping force.

Joe Biden

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Joseph Biden and ranking member Richard Lugar warned that any delay in assisting the force “will result in the continued loss of life and further degradation of humanitarian infrastructure in Darfur”.

A joint African-United Nations force took over peacekeeping duties in Darfur late December and existing AU forces switched their green berets to the UN blue ones.

The UN-AU hybrid force is still lacking helicopters and western nations have been reluctant to provide them because of their dissatisfaction with the command and control structure of the force according to UN diplomats speaking on background.

The former US special envoy to Sudan Andrew Natsios said that officials at the most senior levels in Washington are making high level contacts to resolve the issue of helicopters the Darfur force desperately needs.

The resolution also urges US president George Bush to press world leaders personally to “contribute the aircraft and crews for the Darfur mission”.

“We cannot allow genocide and suffering to continue because the combined nations of the world cannot find 24 helicopters to help stop it. That is inexcusable” said Senator Biden.

Bush said in his final state of the Union address last night that "America opposes genocide in Sudan".

The Senators also took the opportunity to blast Sudan for putting impediments to prevent the deployment of troops.

“The government of Sudan continues to obstruct implementation of Security Council Resolutions” the resolution reads.

Sudan not signed off on the Status of Force (SAF) agreement that governs the work of the new force. It has refused to allow night flights — except for medical evacuation — or large U.N. cargo planes.

Additionally, the government has attempted to require the force to give it advance notice of all movements and to ensure that its military can scramble U.N. radio communications when it is conducting operations.

Sudan has also refused to allow non-African units in Darfur including Swedish, Thai and Nepalese troops. Both Sweden and Norway withdrew their troop contributions as a result.

The lawmakers called for sanctions against the Sudanese government as well.

“The European Union and United Nations Security Council should, I believe, join the United States in imposing strong economic sanctions on the Sudanese government” Biden added.

Senator Biden has been one of the outspoken figures on Darfur and a proponent of US military intervention in Darfur.

In advocating use of military force, Biden said last April that senior U.S. military officials in Europe told him that 2,500 U.S. troops could "radically change the situation on the ground now."

"Let’s stop the bleeding," Biden said. "I think it’s a moral imperative."

International experts estimate 200,000 people have died in the conflict, which Washington calls genocide, a term European governments are reluctant to use. The Sudan government says 9,000 people have been killed.

(ST)

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