U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called on the United States and other wealthy countries to contribute manpower and equipment for a new peacekeeping force in Sudan's Darfur region. Mr. Annan will bring up the subject next week when he meets President Bush at the White House.
The secretary-general said Thursday wealthy nations need to take a bigger role in organizing a U.N. force that is due to take over peacekeeping duties in Darfur.
"They will have to commit troops and equipment," he said. "Or if they don't want to do it, help us find the troops and equipment to be able to undertake the mandate they give us."
That mandate came last week from the Security Council. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, in his capacity as Council president for February, issued a statement authorizing the secretary-general to begin contingency planning for a transition from the African Union force now in Darfur to a new, larger and more robust U.N. force.
"The secretariat has not been asking governments for commitments for a U.N. force because it didn't have any authority to do so, so now with this authority clearly in hand through the authority of this presidential statement, they can begin to ask the questions of governments that might be considering participating in the operation in Darfur," he said.
Secretary-General Annan says the Darfur mission will have to be significantly bigger and better equipped than the current 7,000-strong African Union force.
"I would want to see a highly mobile force on the ground in Darfur," he said. "A force that would be able to crisscross the territory in APCs [armored personnel carriers] and jeeps, and would also have tactical air assets to be able to be on the ground when there is an SOS not to arrive after the harm has been done - and to be able to send a message to the militia and the people causing the damage that we have a force that is capable to respond, a force that is everywhere, and a force that will be there on time to prevent them from intimidating and killing the innocent civilians."
The secretary-general says when he meets with President Bush at the White House next week, he will argue that countries with powerful armies will be needed to provide the kind of force necessary to stop the violence in Darfur.
"Such a force would require the participation of governments with highly trained troops who are also well-equipped," he said. "It is not going to be easy for the big and powerful countries with armies to delegate to third world countries. They will have to play a part if we are going to stop the carnage that we see in Darfur."
When asked specifically whether he would ask President Bush to send U.S. troops to Darfur, he said, "I will share with him the countries that I think can supply those needs, and that would include the U.S. Yes."
The conflict in Darfur broke out in February 2003. The African Union peacekeeping force was dispatched the following year, but U.N. special envoy Jan Pronk told the Security Council last month that efforts to bring peace to the region had failed.
Aid groups working in Darfur estimate the violence and a related humanitarian crisis have left more than 180,000 people dead, and forced millions more to flee their homes for the safety of refugee camps.