Wednesday, December 20, 2006
U.S. gives Sudan until year-end to accept UN force.WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Sudan must allow a team of U.N. personnel into Darfur and formally accept an international force for the area by the end of the year or face unspecified U.S. steps next year, a U.S. special envoy said Wednesday.
Andrew Natsios, President Bush's special envoy for Sudan, told reporters he delivered the message to Sudanese President Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan al-Bashir during a visit to Khartoum this month.
U.S. officials have voiced growing frustration at Sudan's refusal to allow international troops to go to Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed in three years of fighting that the United States says is genocide.
"We have told the Sudanese that we have to move along to our own strategic process in the United States government and we will do that beginning in the new year if we do not see some kind of progress ... between now and the end of the year," Natsios told reporters.
Natsios specifically asked that Sudan allow about 60 U.N. military and civilian personnel now in Khartoum to go to Darfur and that the government provide its written, detailed agreement for more than 10,000 international troops to deploy as part of a hybrid force of U.N. and African Union peacekeepers.
While Natsios declined comment on what Washington might do if Sudan fails to act by year-end, the United States and others are considering options from travel bans on Sudanese officials and an assets freeze to imposing a no-fly zone in Darfur.
In response to a Sudanese request, the rotating president of the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday issued a statement reaffirming an agreement reached last month for the hybrid force of U.N. and African Union troops for Darfur, a step U.S. officials hoped might help Sudan accept the hybrid force.
"We expect the Government of Khartoum to respond positively to that action in the U.N.," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters. Asked if she had reason to believe Sudan would do so, she replied: "We will see."
The Darfur conflict began when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in 2003, accusing Khartoum of marginalizing the arid region. Militia, which the international community says the government mobilized to quell the revolt, are accused of pillage and murder.
The hybrid force, which would shore up the roughly 7,000 struggling African Union forces in Darfur, was proposed as a compromise after Sudan rejected outright a U.N. force called for in a U.N. Security Council resolution passed on August 31.
Under a plan crafted by outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, a small initial force of U.N. military and civilian forces would deploy to Darfur, followed by 2,500 troops in a second phase and 10,000 more in a third phase, Natsios said.
Natsios said Sudan could not "cherry-pick" the plan -- accepting some elements but rejecting others -- because nations would only contribute troops if Khartoum agreed to a contingent large enough to ensure their own self-protection.
The U.S. official said he had been unable to visit Darfur on his recent trip to Sudan because "the province is in such trouble now in terms of violence, instability and chaos, I couldn't get into the airports.
Reposted from CNN.com.