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US Wants Early Vote on UN Peacekeepers for Darfur

The United States is pushing the Security Council to vote by the end of the week on a British-American sponsored resolution to send UN troops to Darfur. U.N. humanitarian officials are also urging the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers to avert a disaster.

The draft resolution calls for UN peacekeepers to take over and expand an African Union force that has been unable to stop the violence and protect civilians in Darfur.

Britain and the United States introduced the resolution August 17. But the Sudanese government rejected the proposal and announced it will send troops to the region. UN diplomats say a Sudanese force does not fulfill the terms of the peace agreement signed in May.

Sudanese diplomats were invited to Monday's Security Council meeting to discuss the resolution and the dire humanitarian situation in Darfur, but did not attend.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton says Council members must take a clear stand even though many are concerned about sending U.N peacekeepers into a nation that has not given its consent to the mission. "I think we have all made it clear that nobody expects the U.N force to fight its way into Darfur. But at the same time, for us simply to withhold while the Darfur peace agreement itself becomes shakier and shakier, not the least of which because of actions by the government of Sudan, risks the situation simply getting out of control. So I think we still have a lot of obstacles to overcome. But I think the determination that I am trying to express is that we have undertaken many efforts to accommodate the concerns of the government of Sudan and those on the Council who are speaking for it. There comes a time ultimately when you just have to stand up and vote," he said.

Bolton wants the Security Council to vote on the resolution soon because of the deteriorating situation in Darfur and also because the Council's president for the month of August is an African, Ghanaian ambassador Nana Effah Apenteng.

The U.S. ambassador say the transition should take place October 1, just after the U.N. mandate for the African Union forces expires.

U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egland says the U.N. troops are needed to protect civilians and aid workers. He says he gave Council members his bleakest account of conditions in Darfur in more than two years. "We are now close to having a freefall of our operation in Darfur. We have the worst security situation since 2004. We have the worst access since 2004. We have some of the worst atrocities since 2004. The way it is now, it cannot continue. Many aid organizations are now debating internally whether they should leave Darfur because they cannot any longer provide assistance in an effective manner and because they have lost too many colleagues," he said.

Egland says humanitarian groups are looking to the Security Council to make a much stronger effort after recent murders and kidnappings of aid workers, vehicle hijackings, and an influx of 50,000 newly displaced persons.