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Bush Orders Airlift of Supplies for Darfur Mission

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U.S. President George Bush has authorized an American airlift of equipment for African Union and United Nations peacekeepers in Sudan's troubled Darfur region. 

The president has spoken for some time of his resolve to help the peacekeeping mission in Darfur.

Now he has told the State Department to start the airlift immediately without reimbursement from the United Nations.

"I have provided a waver to the State Department so they can begin to move 240 containers worth of heavy equipment into Darfur, and that the Defense Department will be flying Rwandan equipment into Darfur to help facilitate the peacekeeping missions there," said President Bush.

Mr. Bush spoke after talks with Salva Kiir, a former south Sudanese rebel leader who is now the First Vice President of Sudan.  He is part of a national unity government established as a result of a 2005 peace agreement that ended 22 years of civil war between northern and southern Sudan. 

Salva Kiir also holds the title of president of semi-autonomous southern Sudan.  And Mr. Bush invited him to the White House to get a status report on developments both in his region, and nationally as well.

"And the vice president brought me up to date on what had been accomplished and what still remains to be accomplished," said Mr. Bush.

The Bush administration has been relentless in its criticism of Sudanese President Omar Bashir - blaming him for the humanitarian crises in Darfur and elsewhere.

Salva Kiir has indicated he plans to run for the nation's top job when Sudan holds elections later this year.  President Bush referred to him as a leader, who is trying to bring all the rebel groups in Darfur together for peace talks with the government.

The Bush White House has come under some criticism lately for its handling of the Sudan crisis - particularly in the New York Times newspaper. 

In a written statement on the airlift, the president's national security advisor - Stephen Hadley - went to the unusual step of singling out Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who has called for military pressure on Sudan to end the killing in Darfur.  Hadley, who defended the administration's Sudan policy, said human-rights groups oppose military action.  
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