Friday, March 31, 2006

REMEMBER DARFUR?

From the BBC - Darfur violence 'as bad as ever':
Conflict in Sudan's Darfur region has forced 50,000 people from their homes since the year began, the International Organisation for Migration says.

The group said this was the highest quarterly figure in three years.

The IOM warned the level of violence in Darfur had not lessened since fighting began in 2003, and was putting many areas beyond the reach of aid agencies.

Hundreds of thousands of people have died in the Darfur conflict, with more than 1.5m made homeless.

"Darfur is a difficult, dangerous conflict that has a good chance of getting worse," the IOM's head of operations in Darfur, Robbie Thompson, told journalists in Geneva.

An African Union peace force, which currently comprises 7,000 troops, has been in place for three years.

Earlier this week, Arab leaders agreed to pay for the AU peacekeeping force in Darfur from October this year, when its current funding runs out.

The United Nations had been making plans to take over the Darfur peace mission, but the Sudanese government objected to UN control of the mission.
Meanwhile, NATO has ruled out the prospect of sending troops to Darfur. From the Sudan Tribune:
NATO has categorically ruled out sending troops to Darfur despite pleas from U.S. President George W. Bush and several high-ranking senators for a more robust alliance role to prevent further bloodletting in the war-torn Sudanese province.

Last month, Bush phoned NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer to press the case for the 26-member military bloc to "take the lead" in stopping the slaughter in Darfur. At a White House meeting last week, the U.S. president repeated his demand for the alliance to adopt a more muscular stance on Sudan. Bush said that if the African Union, which currently heads the peacekeeping effort in Darfur, hands over its mission to the United Nations later this year, "NATO can move in with United States’ help ... to make it clear to the Sudanese Government that we’re intent upon providing security for the people there."

Prominent U.S senators have also called on the Brussels-based military club to become more involved in Darfur. Democrat Joseph Biden of Delaware and Kansas Republican Sam Brownback last month tabled a resolution calling for NATO troops to be sent to the region and for the alliance to enforce a no-flight zone over Darfur.

However, there seems to be little appetite for a greatly enhanced NATO role within the alliance. "No one is discussing, planning or considering a NATO force on the ground in Darfur. That is not one of the options," spokesman James Appathurai told reporters Wednesday after a meeting of NATO ambassadors.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a NATO official told United Press International that the idea of the alliance dispatching ground troops to the troubled province was a "non-starter with the Africans, a non-starter with the United Nations and a non-starter with NATO." Officials in Brussels also criticized the U.S. president for sending out confused messages about what he expects from the alliance. "Bush has been a little bit unclear in his language," said one, referring to the president’s call for 20,000 peacekeepers to be sent to Darfur under NATO’s command.
I'd say asking for 20,000 peacekeepers was pretty clear myself, but that's probably why I'm not an official in Brussels.

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