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International Group Holds Darfur Vigil Outside White House

Members and supporters of Amnesty International gathered Tuesday outside the White House to call on President Bush to pressure the Sudanese government to accept U.N. troops in its wartorn Darfur region. VOA's Sean Maroney reports from Washington.

Nearly 100 protesters carrying placards and some wearing U.N. blue berets marched down the long avenue outside the White House with a message for President Bush.

Amnesty International held the vigil to deliver a petition of some 30,000 signatures urging President Bush to act on Darfur.

The group's director of government relations, Alexandra Arriaga, said she hopes the petition will encourage President Bush to promote a new plan for the Sudanese region.

"To make it very clear that the United States will not stand by a day longer as the rapes and the killings continue to occur," said Alexandra Arriaga. "To make it clear to China, to the Arab League, to other allies - that they need to join us in making this end."

Khartoum has agreed to allow the United Nations to provide technical and logistical support to the African Union force in Darfur. But the Sudanese government has repeatedly denied a U.N. mission to the region.

The AU has only 7,000 peacekeepers patrolling a remote area the size of France.

President Bush's special envoy for Darfur, Andrew Natsios, said last November that the adminstration would pursue a new plan if U.N. peacekeepers did not enter Darfur by January 1. But so far the Bush administration has yet to announce any change for Darfur.

University student, Andrew Wilkis, participated in the rally, carrying a sign that said, "President Bush: Protect Citizens in Darfur." He said that it is time for Mr. Bush to urge the U.N. for new tactics.

"Certainly we hold a lot of weight in that institution, and without really us pushing for it, I don't think too much is going to get done," he said.

The Darfur conflict began nearly four years ago when rebels attacked government positions over accusations that Khartoum had neglected the region's development. At least 200,000 people have died, and more than 2.5 million others have been displaced.

Sudan's government faces charges that it armed Arab militias to combat the rebels in the region.