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US Lawmakers Urge Support for Darfur Peacekeepers


Members of the U.S. Congress are debating a measure calling on governments to step up assistance to the United Nations/African Union Peacekeeping Mission in Darfur. VOA's Dan Robinson reports, in the debate and in separate legislation approved by the House, China's role in Sudan also came up.

Approved by voice vote, the resolution expresses support for the one-year-old U.N./African Union mission in Darfur and calls on governments to provide the resources needed to ensure its success.

These include troops, and essential tactical and utility helicopters that have been lacking to date, severely limiting the capabilities of the U.N. force.

House lawmakers point to the deaths of seven and the wounding of more 22 U.N. peacekeepers in early July in Darfur, along with previous attacks in which peacekeepers were taken hostage or beaten.

House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Howard Berman says the U.S. has a moral duty to protect civilians in Darfur. "The president and the secretary of Defense must marshal U.S. defense department assets, including helicopters, and immediately deploy them to UNAMID," he said.

Republican Steve Chabot, the resolution's main sponsor, notes that the U.S. has provided more than $4 billion in peacekeeping, reconstruction and humanitarian aid for Darfur. He says it is time for the rest of the world to do its part. "It is past time for our European allies and especially the wealthy Arab countries to assist in this effort."

In debate on the U.N. peacekeeping measure, and a separate resolution dealing with China, lawmakers focused on the Chinese government's role in providing economic and military support for Sudan.

"The Chinese government continues to support the genocidal regime in Sudan and the military junta in Burma. Their actions run counter to our interests in promoting peace, stability and morality in the world. The situation in the Sudan would change drastically if the Chinese government would cooperate at the U.N. and send that message to the Sudanese government," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Republican Chris Smith also takes aim at China in urging stronger support for the U.N. force. "The Chinese government has enabled the dictatorship in Sudan to carry on the atrocities in Darfur by providing the materiel so the government and the troops have the guns and the helicopters to strafe, and to kill and to maim in Darfur," he said.

In a news conference on Wednesday, Nina Shea of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom also touched on Chinese support for the government in Khartoum. "The commission has asked President Bush to urge the Chinese government, as the Sudanese government's major oil partner and arms supplier, to use its considerable leverage to end genocide and protect religious freedom in Sudan where horrific human rights violations are occurring," she said.

Also on Wednesday, a group of lawmakers sent a bipartisan letter to President Bush on China's role in Sudan. "Protesting China's violations of the arms embargo against Sudan. We are asking the president to raise this issue with [China's] President Hu [Jintao], and to seek a stronger embargo if China continues to send arms and equipment to Sudan that are used against the defenseless people of Darfur," said Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern.

In urging U.N. members to provide the resources to ensure the success of UNAMID, House lawmakers also call on the Sudanese government to ensure that those responsible for attacks on U.N. forces are brought to justice.


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