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New Report Calls Diplomacy with Khartoum Over Darfur a Failure

As the situation in Sudan's western Darfur region deteriorates, a new report from an independent public-policy advocacy group is recommending sanctions - among other measures - to persuade Khartoum to agree to the deployment of 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers in the region. Sudan has steadfastly refused to allow U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur, claiming their presence would violate its national sovereignty.

A new International Crisis Group report says diplomatic efforts with Khartoum have failed.

ICG African Studies Program Director Suliman Baldo says the international community has pursued only one approach with Khartoum - what he calls "gentle persuasion."

"We believe there is a third way between this approach and the one which is advocated already by some, calling for non-consensual intervention. And that third way will consist of just applying the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council that have already been adopted to get Sudan to comply with its obligation of protecting its own citizens," he said.

Baldo says the international community must adopt a united front to stop Khartoum's efforts to exploit differences among the United States, the European Union and the United Nations in their dealings with Khartoum and the Darfur conflict.

The ICG report, called Getting the U.N. into Darfur, stops short of calling for a forced U.N. operation.

In August, the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution authorizing a 20,000-troop operation in Darfur. The resolution invites the consent of Khartoum - but does not require its approval. The United States, the leading outside mediator for Darfur, has said repeatedly it will not fight its way into Darfur.

Baldo says the ICG has several recommendations for strong action to break the impasse.

"What is needed is a series of economic, diplomatic sanctions against regime officials who are responsible for this disastrous policy of attacking their own citizens and who are continuing to flout international will by supporting militias and arming them against civilians," he said. "There are also a set of military interventions; the imposition, for example, of a no-fly zone on offensive flights in Darfur is a necessity because some of these flights are aimed at aerial bombardment of civilian targets and villages."

Baldo says another tactic would be the deployment of a rapid-reaction force in eastern Chad to stabilize the situation along the border with Sudan. During the three-year conflict, hundreds of thousands of Darfur civilians have fled to Chad and the government there has accused Khartoum of supporting Chadian rebels, further heightening tensions between the two neighbors.

Since Khartoum and one rebel group signed a peace agreement earlier this year, conditions appear to have gotten worse for the more than two million displaced people in the region.

The African Union mission in Darfur reports continued fighting between splintered rebel groups and proxy government fighters, known as the janjaweed. These Arab militias are considered responsible for the worst crimes committed against African civilians.

U.N. aid agencies also report diminishing access to those who need humanitarian assistance, along with a sharp rise in rape and sexual assaults against women and girls living in Darfur's squalid refugee camps.

Baldo says the ICG report recommends options that stop short of sending troops to Darfur without Khartoum's approval. That choice, he says, would put vulnerable civilians in a worse security situation.