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Blair Blasts Sudan for 'Ethnic Cleansing' in Darfur - 2004-07-21

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has called the violence in Sudan's Darfur "ethnic cleansing," and he is vowing to keep up pressure on the government in Khartoum to stop it.

Prime Minister Blair has told parliament he is in close contact with the United States and the United Nations on how to end the conflict in Darfur, which had displaced more than one million people since last year.

Britain has recently pledged another $51 million in aid for Darfur, making it the second biggest donor after the United States. Mr. Blair says he wants to see if the assistance gets delivered.

"I think the key things now are, first of all, to make sure that whatever aid is given actually goes through to the people that need it most," he said. "Secondly, to keep up pressure on the government of Sudan to make sure that they are dealing with the real problems that are giving rise to the violence and the ethnic cleansing and we continue to put as much pressure as we possibly can on them to do that, along with the United States."

The leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat party, Charles Kennedy, said he fears a Rwanda-style genocide may be unfolding in Sudan.

"The international community must recognize the absolute sense of urgency which now attaches itself to this, not least the fact that we cannot adequately expect only 60 United Nations monitors and 300 troops to be patrolling an area geographically the size of France," said Mr. Kennedy. "On a humanitarian basis, the real danger now is that we could be facing the obscenity of another Rwanda."

Mr. Blair did not speak directly of any type of international military intervention in the crisis, but he did say all options must remain open.

"We will continue to monitor the situation very carefully as well, and we will rule absolutely nothing out in this situation," he said. "So let us see how the results of the extra aid develop over the coming days, but we will keep a very, very close watch on this and I am in contact with other ministers on this issue literally every day."

The Darfur conflict broke out 18 months ago when two rebel groups took up arms against the Arab-controlled Khartoum government, accusing it of ignoring the needs of the region's predominately black population. Since then, Arab militiamen backed by the Sudanese military have swept through the region. Human rights monitors accuse the militia of a wide range of atrocities, including rape and murder.