July 18, 2006

World powers press Sudan on Darfur U.N. force

By Ingrid Melander

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - World powers pressed Sudan on Tuesday
to accept a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur to
replace an ill-equipped African Union force that has been
unable to stem the violence that Washington calls genocide.

Sudan said it would reject the move once more.

The United Nations and aid agencies will also press donors
at talks in Brussels between U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan,
the EU, the United States and Sudan to finance the 7,000-strong
AU force for a few more months before a transition to the U.N.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and 2.5
million forced into exile in three years of fighting in lawless

"It is very important that the government of Sudan accepts
this transition as called for by the African Union, as called
for by the UN, the EU, the world community," U.S. Assistant
Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer told
Reuters ahead of the talks.

"To protect innocent lives in Darfur we need an
international peacekeeping operation with the capability to
address the complexity of the challenges," she said, stressing
that only the United Nations had these capabilities.

"A U.N. operation is the only viable and realistic option
in Darfur in the long term," the European Union said on the eve
of the talks.

"This is exactly what we all want, what is necessary," EU
External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said.


World powers are set to clash with Sudan's Foreign Minister
Lam Akol, as Foreign Ministry spokesman Jamal Ibrahim
reiterated on Monday Sudan's rejection of a U.N. mission.

Eight leading aid agencies said in a joint call on Tuesday
the international community should focus on funding the AU to
stop the killings now, rather than discuss the transfer.

The mission only has enough money to run until August, EU
officials said.

"The African Union ... simply cannot be expected to fulfill
its mandate without proper support," said Barbara Stocking,
director of the British branch of Oxfam, in a joint statement
with other aid agencies.

The AU had wanted to hand its operation to the United
Nations at the end of September but its leaders decided earlier
this month to extend its mission until the end of the year
because of Sudan's opposition to any U.N. deployment.

Frazer said the United States still hoped for a transition
to the U.N. at the end of September and was not prepared yet to
finance a prolongation of the AU mission.

"While an enormous amount of money is being spent debating
what will happen in six months time, no one seems to have
noticed that people are still being killed today," said Denis
Caillaux, secretary general of CARE International.

The agencies urged donors to make pledges whether or not
there is an agreement for a transition to the U.N.

Violence erupted in Darfur in 2003 when non-Arab rebels
took up arms against the Arab dominated government, accusing it
of neglect. Khartoum responded by arming a mostly Arab militia
which stands accused of rape, murder and looting.

(Additional reporting by Gideon Long in London and Mohammed
Abbas in Khartoum)