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US Panel Says Preventing Genocide Should Be Top Priority for Obama


A special task force on ways to prevent genocide has called on President-elect Barack Obama to make preventing genocide and mass atrocities a top foreign policy priority. The special task force headed by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Former Defense Secretary William Cohen, also recommends establishing an early warning system to prevent genocide in the future.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Former Defense Secretary William Cohen both served in President Bill Clinton's cabinet. During Mr. Clinton's presidency, atrocities were committed in Bosnia and the genocide in Rwanda occurred. The two former secretaries teamed up again to work with other national leaders for 13 months to draw up a blueprint to prevent genocide. Albright said the paradox is that the world agrees genocide is unacceptable, and yet mass killings and genocide continue.

"The central premise of our report is that genocide is unacceptable and that we can and should do more to prevent it. The United States does not bear this burden alone, but we have both a duty and a profound interest in helping to show the way," she said.

Secretary Cohen said that genocide certainly is a moral issue, but stressed that it is also a national security issue for the United States.

"We can't sit on the sidelines while this is taking place. We have to develop, as Madeleine says, as Secretary Albright says, the leadership, from the president on down, through the Congress. We have to develop institutions," said Cohen.

The report says President-elect Obama himself must demonstrate that preventing genocide is a top foreign policy priority, for example, by issuing an early executive order.

Secretary Albright said she expects strong support from the Obama administration for the panel's recommendations.

"President-elect Obama has made very clear that he is very concerned about Darfur and Congo and various places where we are seeing genocide take place or mass atrocities potentially," said Albright.

The report says genocide is not the inevitable result of ancient hatred or irrational leaders, and that it requires planning and is carried out systematically. The panel recommends creating an inter-agency early warning system to analyze threats of genocide, and investing $250 million in new funds for crisis prevention and response.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Obama said the transition team will review the task force recommendations carefully, and that the president-elect is committed to strengthening U.S. leadership and international efforts to respond to genocide and other humanitarian disasters.

Mr. Obama and his designated Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have repeatedly called for stronger action to deal with the mass killings in the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan. Now, it will be up to them to take action on the panel's blueprint for genocide prevention.


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