U.S. special envoy for Sudan Andrew Natsios is to meet senior European Union and NATO officials in Brussels Friday as he continues a mission aimed at ending violence in Darfur. He held talks in Khartoum earlier this week on a proposed African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force for the region. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
Ambassador Natsios will consult the European officials after a Khartoum visit where he made some minor headway, but not a break-through, in efforts to deploy a new Darfur peace force.
The United Nations voted at the end of August to replace the current 7,000-member African Union observer mission in Darfur with a full-scale U.N. peacekeeping mission three times as large.
But the Khartoum government has rejected the force as tantamount to a foreign invasion of its territory, and continues to resist a compromise plan approved last month in Addis Ababa to make it a hybrid U.N. and African mission.
At a news briefing here Thursday, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer reaffirmed U.S. backing for the hybrid plan, and said a United Nations role was needed to assure that the force has the mobility and leadership to be effective.
Ambassador Natsios has said the world community might have to resort to a so-called Plan B - implicitly coercive measures - if Sudan continues to refuse the deployment.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has raised the prospect of an Iraq-style no fly zone in Darfur to protect civilians there, and under questioning Assistant Secretary Frazer would not rule that out as an option:
It all depends on the overall strategy," said Jendayi Frazer. "And I think you shouldn't take any option off the table in designing that overall strategy at this point in our negotiations with the government of Sudan over getting a credible and effective force into Darfur to save lives."
Ambassador Natsios, on his second mission to the region since becoming the U.S. envoy, met Wednesday with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, and obtained an agreement from him to issue visas for U.N. logistics officers who would lay groundwork for the new force.
But officials here said the Sudanese leader would not agree to further steps toward deploying the hybrid force.
For security reasons, Natsios scrapped plans to fly from Khartoum to Darfur and then to neighboring Chad, which has been plagued by spillover violence.
He was to have gone to London for follow-on talks but decided instead to go to Brussels, to meet NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, and Belgian officials.