Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said Thursday that the United States should take the lead role in ensuring the immediate deployment of an international force to protect civilians in Sudan's western Darfur region.
Mr. Kerry spoke about the situation in Darfur to the National Baptist Convention, one of the nation's largest African-American church groups.
Senator Kerry said it was time to set a new direction for America's leadership in the world. He said the United States and the United Nations Security Council now face a crucial decision on whether to take action to stop the killing in Darfur. "If I were president, I would act now. As I've said for months, I would not sit idly by. We cannot simply accept another Rwanda. The United States should ensure the immediate deployment of an effective international force to disarm militia, protect civilians and facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance in Darfur," he said.
Senator Kerry said the United States should lead the United Nations in imposing sanctions on Sudan if the Khartoum government continues to block deployment of an international force.
Earlier in the day, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said government-backed Arab militias in Darfur have committed genocide against the local black African population. He called for international pressure on Sudan, but he said there was "no appetite" among western powers to assemble an intervention force to impose peace in the region.
Senator Kerry also said the United States should immediately appoint an American ambassador to the African Union much as it does for the European Union, adding that the United States should not treat Africa as a second-class continent.