U.S. to press Sudan to accept Darfur peacekeepers

Posted in United States | 25-Aug-06 | Author: Warren Hoge| Source: International Herald Tribune

President George W. Bush is sending senior envoy Jendayi Frazer.
UNITED NATIONS President Bush on Thursday dispatched his senior African affairs official to Sudan to try to persuade its government to accept a United Nations peacekeeping force in Darfur. At the United Nations, Sudan rebuffed a Security Council invitation to discuss the resolution creating the force.

"Darfur is on the verge of a dangerous downward spiral," said the administration official, Jendayi E. Frazer, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, who was scheduled to go to Sudan's capital, Khartoum, on Friday.

"We cannot allow foot-dragging at the U.N. or be held hostage to the Sudanese government's refusal to allow U.N. peacekeepers to keep us from taking morally just and humane action in Darfur," she said.

At the United Nations, Nana Effah-Apenteng of Ghana, the Council president for August, said the panel would go ahead with a meeting on the Darfur resolution on Monday despite a letter turning down an offer to discuss it from Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the Sudanese president.

"We thought we were offering them a golden opportunity on Monday to come and talk on the resolution before we took further action," Effah-Apenteng said. He had extended the invitation, he said, because of repeated claims by Sudan that it was not being consulted.

Bashir has repeatedly objected to the proposal to turn the underfinanced and poorly equipped 7,000-member African Union force now patrolling Darfur into a new United Nations-mandated force. Under the draft resolution, co-sponsored by the United States and Britain, the force would grow to 22,000 soldiers and police officers.

Bashir, instead, has proposed using more than 10,000 of his own troops to quell the violence. In his letter to the Security Council, he said a transfer of authority to the United Nations would cause "acts of violence and unmanageable confrontations among all parties in Darfur, including the United Nations forces."

More than 200,000 people have died in the conflict in Darfur, and more than two million have been forced from their homes in a campaign that the United Nations calls the world's worst human crisis. The Bush administration labels it genocide.

Sudan has said it will deny its consent to the presence of new United Nations peacekeepers.

Despite this defiant stance, both Britain and the United States say that the Security Council should persist in pursuing a vote.

"No country has ever had a veto over the Security Council expressing its will," Frazer said. "And so that can't be an excuse for not passing the resolution."