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Pentagon: No US Military Action Planned for Darfur

Senior U.S. defense officials say they are not planning any military intervention to end the killing and suffering in Sudan's Darfur region. The comments came at a U.S. Senate committee hearing Tuesday, and in a VOA interview. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.

The Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs, Theresa Whelan, told VOA the United States is pressing for progress on the Darfur crisis, but is focusing on diplomacy. "We are not considering doing something militarily. I guess, in a case like Sudan, there are always things that are being considered. But I think the focus of the special envoy, [Andrew] Natsios' efforts right now is on getting the parties back to the table," she said.

Assistant Secretary Whelan says the efforts of President Bush's special envoy for Darfur, Andrew Natsios, are focused on convincing the Khartoum government it cannot achieve its goals in Darfur militarily. "They have not resolved the problem militarily, and they probably will not, never, resolve the problem militarily, just like they never resolved the North-South issue militarily. That was resolved at the negotiating table," she said.

Whelan says there are numerous agreements that the Khartoum government must implement, and that both the government and the rebels must 'act responsibly' and negotiate a revised peace accord. That would pave the way for the United Nations to take over the under-manned and under-funded African Union peacekeeping effort in Darfur.

Assistant Secretary Whelan says the Khartoum government is only postponing inevitable negotiations. And she praised the effort by Chinese President Hu Jintao in Khartoum this week to convince leaders there to resume the talks.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton raised the Darfur issue at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday. She asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the top U.S. military officer, General Peter Pace, about a proposal she and other senators sent to President Bush to consider military action to prevent Sudan's air force from attacking Darfur and to blockade the Port of Sudan.

Clinton: "I'd like to ask you if you have been instructed by the president to begin planning or preparing any such measure, and whether or not you would look into that if you have not yet been asked to do so?
Gates: I have not been asked to. I would defer to General Pace in terms of whether the Joint Chiefs have done any contingency planning along those lines. And I'm certainly willing to pursue it.
Clinton: General Pace?
Pace: I have not been asked to do that ma'am."

Senator Clinton, who is running for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, said her suggestions on Darfur have been ignored in the past. And she accused the Khartoum government of what she called "repeated and blatant violations of numerous ceasefires, peace agreements and U.N. obligations."