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Some Say More Should be Done to Help Darfur

The Darfur region of Sudan is in the midst of genocide. Diplomats have so far failed to stop the tragedy, citing that country's complex mix of colonial history, tribal warfare, corruption, bureaucracy, and foreign interests. VOA's Peter Fedynsky reports that some Americans currently and previously involved in Darfur are calling on the United States to make a better effort at finding a solution.

Nearly 200,000 people have been killed and another two million have been left homeless Darfur. And the situation appears to be getting worse. UN officials say it is becoming more difficult to deliver food and to maintain security in Darfur, where only about 7,000 African Union troops are trying to keep peace in a territory about as large as France.

In a public discussion at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, DC, former Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said Americans should ask whether the U.S. Darfur policy is working.

"Our policy has been conflicted and I think very unclear toward the regime, because we have cooperated with them in one respect on intelligence and anti-terrorism, while trying to condemn them for being genocidists on the other side.

Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick says the United States has contributing about $1.3 billion per year to Sudan, but not for the Darfur security operation. The State Department official says that's because the U.S. government is set up to fund only United Nations peacekeeping operations.

"And since your budgets are developed years in advance, when we had to put together basically eleven, $12 million a month for this operation, we had no money. So frankly, I and my colleagues have been raiding various accounts in the State Department and reallocating things to try to do this."

Zoellick says the State Department tried and failed late last year to get $50 million from Congress specifically for Darfur, though he says lawmakers may yet approve a supplemental appropriation this year of $173 million.

The director of foreign policy studies at Brookings, former diplomat Carlos Pascual, noted the difficulty of getting concerted United Nations action in Darfur because individual nations use their Security Council veto powers to protect vested interests.

"There are some countries such as China that have very specific financial interests in Sudan. There is Russia that has a concern about how it votes on any of these questions because of the precedent that it creates for scrutiny of internal conflicts."

Pascual said individual Americans should maintain pressure on Congress to allocate the funds needed to help the people of Darfur.