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Britain Calls for More Peacekeepers in Darfur


British Prime Minister Tony Blair has told parliament the international community is failing to support the people of Sudan's war-ravaged western Darfur region. Mr. Blair says an African peacekeeping force needs more troops and money.

Prime Minister Blair has faced new questions about the Darfur crisis during his weekly appearance in parliament.

"I think the international community is failing the people in Darfur, which is why it is so important that we take the measures that the development secretary, indeed the government, have been pressing for," he said. "And those measures have got to include not just the immediate humanitarian help, but also to make sure that the African Union peacekeeping force comes up to its full strength."

Mr. Blair says a number of steps need to taken to bring peace to Darfur, but he defends British policy on the issue.

"The only way that the situation in Darfur is going to improve is when there are sufficient numbers of peacekeeping forces on the ground to keep the combatants apart, when the process of dialogue and peace takes place, which we have been calling for, and obviously, where the measures are in place to improve humanitarian help," he added. "So we have to do more, but we are doing more and I would just point out we as the British government have been leading in this area and will continue to do so."

The United Nations has called the Darfur conflict the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

The U.N. says two million people have fled their homes and more than 180,000 have been killed in Darfur in two-and-one-half years of fighting between separatist rebels and government-backed militias.

The African Union has sent about 7,000 peacekeeping troops and security personnel to patrol a region bigger than France.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is calling for a major new international effort to pacify Darfur. In a newspaper commentary Mr. Annan says the U.N. Security Council has the responsibility to act to stop genocide, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes. He also calls for more pressure on the rebels and the government to observe a ceasefire and undertake urgent peace talks.

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