The Bush administration acknowledged Tuesday it may not get a Security Council resolution for a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Sudan's Darfur region as it hoped for by the end of month. But it vowed to keep pushing for the upgrade of the current African Union force.
Bush administration officials had hoped to get a resolution on the new Darfur peacekeeping presence before the United States' turn as rotating Security Council president for the month of February expired.
But with only a week to go, they are acknowledging that prospect now appears unlikely, while saying that the U.S. drive for a full-fledged U.N. peacekeeping mission will continue unabated.
At a news briefing, State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli hailed the performance of the current African Union force in Darfur, which he credited with preventing the kind of large scale atrocities that occurred in the region in 2004.
But he said that mission was never intended to be open-ended and said the United States wants to see quick action transforming the African Union Mission in Sudan, or AMIS, into a full-scale blue-hatted U.N. force. "I can't promise you that there's going to be a resolution introduced in the next week. I can say that whether we're the president or not of the Security Council, the United States will push to marshal international efforts in support of peace in Darfur, including a re-hatting of AMIS into a U.N. force," he said.
Mr. Ereli said it is important to get the logistics and mechanics of the transformation done right, but said there is an urgency to the matter, since people are still dying in Darfur.
Privately a senior diplomat who spoke to reporters here expressed frustration over the pace of work by a U.N. team now in Sudan to make an assessment of the logistical needs of a new force.
They are dragging their feet, the diplomat said, and we are getting a little impatient.
President Bush said last week he favored doubling the number of peacekeepers operating in Darfur, while the 7,000 A.U. troops already there should form the core of the new contingent.
The A.U. force, which has gotten airlift and other support from the United States, has still been hampered by funding and logistical problems in trying to contain the violence in the region, where local rebels are battling Sudanese-government backed militiamen.
The fighting has led to the deaths of some 200,000 people and displaced more than two million others, leading former Secretary of State Colin Powell to say in September 2004 that genocide had occurred.
The Khartoum government has rejected that depiction, reaffirmed in Congressional testimony last week by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and has not yet given its consent to an upgraded peacekeeping force.
The International Criminal Court has launched an investigation of alleged Darfur war crimes. U.S. religious groups, including evangelical Christian and Jewish organizations, have become more vocal in recent weeks in pressing the Bush administration on the issue.
The Save Darfur Coalition, consisting of some 130 U.S. religious, humanitarian and human rights groups, is beginning a 22-city speaking tour Wednesday, to raise awareness on Darfur culminating with an April 30 rally in Washington.