Home | News    Saturday 24 July 2004

Europe adds to U.S. pressure on Sudan over Darfur

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By Paul Casciato

LONDON, July 24 (Reuters) - European allies joined the United States on Saturday in heaping pressure on Sudan to end a conflict in its western Darfur region which threatens millions of lives and has been labelled genocide by the U.S. Congress.

Britain’s top military commander General Mike Jackson told BBC radio his country could muster 5,000 troops to intervene in Darfur, just hours after the European Union’s top diplomat urged Sudan to disarm the Arab militias who have been razing black African villages and driving millions into barren desert.

The comments may bolster a transatlantic alliance fractured by the 2003 U.S.-led war on Iraq and appear at a time when a U.S.-drafted resolution at the United Nations, seeking to threaten Sudan with sanctions, has been stalled by objections from fellow Security Council members China and Russia.

"If need be, we will be able to go to Sudan. I suspect we could put a brigade together very quickly indeed," General Mike Jackson, Britain’s Chief of General Staff, told BBC television.

Britain, Sudan’s largest cash donor, has said it holds Khartoum responsible for ending a conflict that has already killed an estimated 30,000 people and accused the United Nations of being slow to respond. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said this week he had not ruled out military intervention.

The 15-month conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur, pitting nomadic Arab "Janjaweed" militias against black Africans, has forced a million people from their villages and left two million in desperate need of aid, U.N. officials say.

Some 180,000 refugees have swollen camps across the border in eastern Chad to escape the mounted militias accused of raping and killing their victims, looting and burning villages, poisoning water supplies and destroying crops.

Television pictures show camps full of thin women and children living on meagre rations with little more than a few sticks for shelter after stumbling for days and weeks to camps short of water, food, sanitation and medical equipment.

More than a million people remain displaced inside Darfur.

GENOCIDE?

EU Foreign Policy Javier Solana told Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail in Brussels on Friday that Khartoum must disarm the Janjaweed.

"He (Solana) urged the government to arrest the leaders of the Janjaweed, as a first significant step towards the dismantling of these militias, which are held accountable for most of the human rights violations," Solana’s spokeswoman said in a statement issued on Saturday.

Despite the draft U.N. resolution and a fact-finding trip by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, critics say President George W. Bush’s administration is reacting too slowly to save a threatened African ethnic group exactly one decade after the international community failed to stop genocide in Rwanda.

The U.S. Congress passed a resolution on Thursday declaring the Janjaweed attacks in Darfur constituted genocide and urged Bush to seek a U.N. protection force.

But the Bush administration resisted calls to follow Congress in its official description of the Darfur conflict. The "genocide" label would put the United States under pressure to urgently do more than it already has to stop the violence.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said attention should be on helping victims rather than applying labels.

"That’s where the focus has to be placed," he said. "We’ll certainly take the views of the Congress into account as we proceed in this work."

Sudan has warned Britain and the United States not to interfere in its internal affairs, saying it would reject any offer of military help to address what the United Nations says is the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

A spokesman for Blair’s Downing Street office said on Saturday Britain was consulting with the international community on possible solutions. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is due to visit Sudan next month.

"We have a moral responsibility to deal with this and to deal with it by any means that we can," Blair said on Thursday.

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