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Bush Wants More Troops for Darfur


President Bush says peace in Sudan would help end attacks by Ugandan rebels based in southern Sudan. Mr. Bush also called for more troops to protect Sudanese refugees displaced by ethnic violence in the western Darfur region.

President Bush says Ugandan military efforts to defeat rebels from a group known as the Lord's Resistance Army would be more successful if those rebels were denied the ability to hide amidst the instability across the border in southern Sudan.

"There's no doubt it would be easier to deal with the Lord's group if we were able to achieve peace between north and south Sudan," he said. "They take advantage of instability."

Responding to a query in a question-and-answer session with Republican supporters in Florida, President Bush says he has discussed the rebel issue with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and remains committed to finding a solution.

The Lord's Resistance Army is comprised mainly of northern Ugandans who say that President Museveni is ignoring their area. The group has little in the way of a political agenda and is best known for kidnapping children to use as porters, sex slaves, and future fighters.

President Bush says he hopes a peace agreement between southern Sudanese rebels and the government in Khartoum will return some sense of normalcy to southern Sudan and force out Ugandan rebels.

Mr. Bush also discussed the humanitarian crisis facing Sudanese civilians displaced by three years of ethnic violence in the western Darfur region.

He met with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan this week to discuss the issue and how best to bolster an African Union peacekeeping force that has been hurt by logistic limitations in an area the size of France.

"We need more troops," said Mr. Bush. "The effort was noble, but it didn't achieve the objective, so I am in the process now of working with a variety of folks to encourage there to be more troops, probably under the United Nations."

President Bush did not offer to send American troops to Darfur. U.N. officials say they expect Washington will provide transport and equipment to a larger force.

President Bush Friday telephoned NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer to discuss how NATO might boost efforts to stop the violence in Darfur.

More than two million civilians have been driven from their land by Arab militia who human rights groups say are backed by Khartoum. The Sudanese government says it does not support the militia and is working to restore order in the region. Tens of thousands of people are believed to have been killed in the violence.

President Bush says one of the problems is that rebels in the area are not united in their objectives, complicating political and diplomatic efforts to hammer out a solution.