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US Assumes UN Security Council Presidency - Urged to Take Action on Darfur

The United States assumed the presidency of the UN Security Council Wednesday and various groups are calling on the Bush Administration to use the position to help bring peace to Darfur.

Kenneth Bacon, head of Refugees International, says for the next month, the Bush Administration can focus world attention on Darfur.

“The first thing I’d like the US to do during its presidency of the UN Security Council is to take the entire Security Council, all 15 members, to Darfur to get a first-hand look at the amount of destruction that’s taking place there,” he says.

Bacon says there’s precedent for this. In 2004, then US Ambassador to the UN, John Danforth, held a Security Council meeting in Nairobi on Sudan’s north-south civil war. He says that spurred action on a peace deal. Bacon wants current US ambassador John Bolton to take similar action.

The president of Refugees International also wants Bolton to push for a UN peacekeeping force in Darfur to replace African Union forces. He says the AU force is too small and is running out of money. Joining in the call for a UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur is the group Human Rights Watch. While praising the AU, it says the deteriorating situation demands a major new international effort.

Bacon says if necessary UN peacekeepers should be backed by Western air power to prevent attacks on civilians.

Finally, Bacon is calling on Ambassador Bolton to help make public a new report, which shows an arms embargo in Darfur is not working.

He says, “Recently, a UN-appointed group of experts wrote a report and tried to give it to the Security Council, but the Security Council hasn’t accepted it yet. So, one thing that Mr. Bolton can do is to get that report out to the Security Council. Make it public. Shame and blame the countries like Libya, who are reportedly continuing to ship arms in violation of the embargo both to rebels and government forces. Eritrea is another one. I’ve been to Darfur and I’ve seen shards of rockets and bombs that both Chinese and Russian markings on them.”

The President of Refugees International says the United States would face obstacles in taking action on Darfur. Most notably, he says, from Khartoum’s allies, Russia and China. Either can veto Security Council action.