Thursday, June 28, 2007

Paris pushes swift deployment of troops in Darfur

Source: CNN.

June 25, 2007.

PARIS, France (AP) -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy pushed fast international action toward speeding up deployment of troops in Darfur, as key world players met Monday to try to consolidate efforts and resources for the ravaged Sudanese region.

Sudan was not invited to the one-day Paris conference, organized by a new French government that has made the four-year conflict in Darfur a top priority. The meetings come after Sudan agreed -- under international pressure -- to allow the deployment of a joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force in the region.

Sarkozy pledged an additional $13.4 million to the existing -- and cash-strapped -- African Union force. "Silence is killing," in Darfur, Sarkozy said in greeting participants to the conference.

"The lack of decision and the lack of action is unacceptable," he added.

He praised Sudan for agreeing to the hybrid force but insisted, "We must be firm toward belligerents who refuse to join the negotiating table."

Stepping up pressure for progress, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said Sunday night that the international community has fallen down on the job in Darfur.

Rice and Sarkozy had their first face-to-face talks since Sarkozy took over last month from Jacques Chirac.

Details about the composition, mandate and timetable of the joint force are expected to top discussions at Monday's meetings.

More than 200,000 people have died in the Darfur region of western Sudan and 2.5 million have become refugees since 2003, when local rebels took up arms against the Sudanese government, accusing it of decades of neglect. Sudan's government is accused of unleashing in response a militia of Arab nomads known as the janjaweed -- a charge Sudan denies.

The U.N. and Western governments had pressed Sudan for months to accept a plan for a large joint force of U.N. and AU peacekeepers to replace the overwhelmed 7,000-strong African force now in Darfur.

Sudan initially accepted the plan in November but then backtracked, before finally agreeing earlier this month. Rice warned Sudan's government not to renege on its agreement.

Bernard Kouchner, French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, insisted Sunday, "This is not a 'peacemaking' meeting, but on the contrary, a meeting to support the international efforts that have been deployed."

Kouchner, a Socialist who co-founded the aid group Doctors Without Borders, said "humanitarian work ... is not enough." He also noted that the world powers must agree to support the U.N. force financially.

"If there are 20,000 forces who are in the hybrid force, whoever they are, they must be paid," he said.

The conference includes Rice, Kouchner, officials from the United Nations including Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, the Arab League and the European Union, as well as 11 European countries, Egypt and China.

Notable absences, other than Sudan, include the African Union and neighboring Chad, which has seen an influx of tens of thousands of people fleeing Darfur and is a key conduit for aid.

China is viewed as a power broker in Sudan because of its heavy investment in the country. China has long opposed harsh measures against Sudan over Darfur.

Beijing has dramatically stepped up efforts to end the violence in Darfur in the wake of mounting criticism that threatened to taint the 2008 Olympic Games, which it is hosting.

China has not received a formal request to send soldiers for the AU-U.N. peacekeeping mission, but officials have said the country is open to contributing troops.

France had long been less vocal than the United States, Britain and others in pushing for peace in the region, but Sarkozy has made Darfur a foreign policy priority since taking office last month.

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At 6/30/2007 9:11 AM, Blogger Tom the Redhunter said...

Better than nothing, and better late than never.

I just wonder if these troops will really end the Janjaweed terror.

There's got to be a better way than going through the UN and traditional diplomacy. This too far too long. It's inexcuseable, really.

At 7/20/2007 9:16 AM, Blogger Rosemary said...

Dear Tom,
No. They will find that al Qaida has been training there. I've tried to bring this to the awareness of people, but I can only do so much. Do we believe that OBL was the only one there? If not, did they all leave? If so, how did they get to Somalia so quickly? Hmm. Gives one something to think about, eh?


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