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Senior US Envoy Heads to Sudan to Pressure Khartoum on Darfur Crisis


The top U.S. diplomat on Africa is traveling to Sudan to deliver a message from President Bush to the Khartoum government about ending the crisis in the western Darfur region.

The trip by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer comes as security continues to deteriorate in Darfur.

Ms. Frazer will depart Friday, August 25 to deliver a message from President Bush urging the Sudanese government to fully implement the Darfur Peace Agreement, or DPA. She says in his message, President Bush also underscores the need for the quick deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping force, something Khartoum has repeatedly rejected.

The Sudanese government has been accused of using Arab militia known as Janjaweed as a proxy army against ethnic minorities whose fight for autonomy and a greater share of Darfur's resources sparked the conflict in early 2003. The U.S. has called the violence genocide.

Ms. Frazer says the U.S. will not allow Khartoum's refusal to permit U.N. troops and what she called "foot-dragging" at the United Nations to prevent the administration from taking steps to stop the killing.

She says the U.S. and Britain are pressing for action at the U.N. by the end of this month.

"The United States and Britain have introduced a draft United Nations Security Council resolution, calling for the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur," said Jendayi Frazer. "There is already agreement at the Security Council that only a large, mobile, fast reacting and robust U.N. force, with African forces forming its core and to include Africans in key leadership positions, can legitimately and credibly protect civilians, ensure humanitarian access and fully implement the DPA [Darfur Peace Agreement].

The Sudanese government has rejected the draft resolution, saying it would violate the sovereignty of Sudan. And Sudan has warned any international troops would be met with deadly force.

But Ambassador Frazer remains hopeful. She says she is confident that Khartoum will eventually agree to begin converting the 7,000 African Union troops already in Darfur into a multinational UN force by October.

"Why do we think we are going to succeed? Necessity and past history," she said. "The past history is that the government of Sudan also opposed the African Union bringing a force to Darfur. Eventually, they saw the wisdom of that action. The African Union of which the government of Sudan is a member has said repeatedly there will be a U.N. force in Darfur. I would think it would be very difficult for a member state to stand up against the entire African Union, an organization which President Bashir aspires to lead in January of 2007."

Ms. Frazer emphasized that the U.N. will not go into Darfur without the consent of the Sudanese government.

"We're not talking about fighting our way in," noted Ms. Frazer. "But we do need a Security Council resolution now that expresses the will of the community that there should be this rehatting [converting] of the African Union forces."

Instead, Ms. Frazer says the new troops would merely bolster a U.N. force - known as UNMIS - already in Darfur. That force is there to implement the landmark North-South deal ending 21 years of civil war with southern rebels.

In addition to the U.N. troops in Darfur, about 7,000 African Union troops and observers are there. Hampered by a lack of funds and manpower, the AU troops have been unable to quell violence in and outside refugees camps in Darfur, an area roughly the size of France.

As for calls that the Bush administration has not pressed Khartoum hard enough by not appointing a special envoy for Darfur, Ms. Frazer says the president is committed to ending the crisis.

The Bush administration is fully engaged on Sudan. Secretary [Condoleeza] Rice over the past week has called her counterparts in China, France and in the UK [Britain]," she said. "President Bush - as you know, I'm going out with a message [from him] to President Bashir. The point is that a Sudan envoy is not a silver bullet. We have a Sudan strategy. If we have more hands to try to implement it, all the better."

Ambassador Frazer says, ultimately, the efforts to get a quick solution to the nearly four-year-long war in Darfur are about humanitarian concerns. She said it is not acceptable that tens of thousands of people have been killed and that another two million others remain displaced, living in huge refugee camps where rapes and killings continue.

To that end, she said the United States is calling for fast action at the United Nations for a resolution.

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