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Presidents Bush, Mbeki Discuss Darfur


President Bush and South African President Thabo Mbeki made a joint appeal to Sudan Friday, urging the government in Khartoum to allow an expanded international peacekeeping force into Darfur. VOA correspondent Jim Malone has details from Washington.

After meeting at the White House with President Mbeki, President Bush told reporters that it is time to step up international efforts to urge Sudan to drop its objections to an expanded peacekeeping force for Darfur.

"We talked about Darfur and the need for South Africa and the United States and other nations to work with the Sudanese government to enable a peacekeeping force to go into that country to facilitate aid and save lives," said Mr. Bush. "And I expressed my concerns about the situation to the president and he shares my concerns that the situation is dire and now is the time for action."

President Mbeki said the two men also discussed the impact of the situation in Darfur on neighboring Chad and the Central African Republic. Mbeki also expressed the hope that the United Nations would move quickly on a plan to deploy an expanded peacekeeping force in the region.

"And hopefully the [U.N.] Security Council will move quickly on that, to do that larger deployment of troops, it is very urgent, very necessary," said Mr. Mbeki. "And we will absolutely do everything to make sure that from the African side, we remove any obstacles there might be to such a bigger deployment in Darfur. It is very necessary."

Earlier in New York, outgoing U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said Sudanese leaders should be held accountable for failing to protect the people of Darfur.

The U.N. has been trying to get Sudan to agree to an expanded peacekeeping force in Darfur operated jointly by the United Nations and the African Union.

In addition to Darfur, presidents Bush and Mbeki also discussed the situation in Somalia, U.S. help to fight HIV-AIDS in South Africa and the stalled negotiations for a new global trade deal.

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