Washington's envoy to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, says he expects the world body to agree this week on a resolution to send a combined U.N.-African Union force to the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur. VOA's Stephanie Ho has more on the story.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, says the crisis in Darfur, a large province in western Sudan, is a high priority for the Bush administration. "One of the highest. And I went to Sudan myself, with the members of the Security Council to demonstrate how important this was for us," he said.
For four years, pro-government Arab janjaweed militias have been battling ethnic African rebels in Darfur. The janjaweed are accused of terrorizing villagers and committing atrocities including murder and rape. More than 200-thousand people have died in the conflict. More than two million others have been driven from their homes.
The Security Council has been working on a draft resolution to authorize an international peacekeeping force for Darfur that would bolster seven thousand African Union monitors who are already there but have been unable to stem the violence. The U.N. and the African Union would supply a total of 26-thousand troops, a plan the government of Sudan has said it will accept.
Speaking on CNN's Late Edition program, Khalilzad said Security Council members are nearing consensus on a U.N. resolution. I believe that we are very close. I expect that we will get an agreement this week," he said.
President Bush has labeled the fighting in Darfur genocide. Since November, the United States and other western countries have been pressing Sudan to accept an expanded international force in Darfur. Recently, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticized Khartoum for what she said were stalling tactics holding up deployment of the hybrid force.
One of Khartoum's main defenders is China, which has veto power in the Security Council and is Sudan's largest foreign investor. Beijing has opposed harsh economic sanctions, but earlier this year helped persuade Sudan to accept U.N. peacekeepers.
On Friday, though, China again called for patience on the Darfur issue. Beijing's special envoy for Darfur, Liu Guijin, told the official China Daily newspaper that coercion, in his words, "will lead us nowhere." He added that other parties must, also in his words, "learn to deal with the Sudanese government" as a "legitimate government that deserves respect."
Beijing next month celebrates the one-year countdown to its hosting of the Olympic Games. Foreign activists have warned they will call the international sporting event the "genocide games" unless China uses more leverage to help bring peace to Darfur.