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Bush Meets With New Special Envoy for Sudan

President Bush met with his new Sudan envoy at the White House Thursday, where he again said he wants more U.N. peacekeepers deployed in the troubled Darfur region. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

President Bush met with his new special envoy Rich Williamson and other members of his national security team to discuss a strategy for making the United Nations more effective in Darfur.

"We talked about our common commitment and the commitment of this government to help the suffering of citizens in Sudan who suffer deprivation, rape," said President Bush. "My administration called this a genocide. Once you label a genocide, you obviously have to do something about it."

Five years of fighting in Darfur has left more than 200,000 people dead and displaced more than 2.5 million others. The president says he wants to stop the violence by getting more peacekeepers to Darfur.

The United Nations now shares command of an outnumbered African Union force, but the size of the force is still far below what has been planned, in part because Sudan's government does not want non-African troops to take part.

At full strength, the hybrid U.N./A.U. operation is meant to have 20,000 troops and more than 6,000 police and civilian staff. The U.N. says there are currently just over 9,000 soldiers on the ground, including troops from Rwanda, South Africa, Nigeria, and Senegal.

President Bush says ending the violence and suffering in Darfur is a central issue on the U.N. agenda. He told special envoy Williamson to report back to him quickly about plans to accelerate peace efforts.

"The United States can help what has been a process frankly that has unfolded a little too slow for our liking," said Mr. Bush.

The president also instructed Williamson to ensure that an earlier peace agreement between Khartoum and southern rebels holds.

Mr. Bush says some Americans probably wonder why he cares about the suffering in Sudan. He says it reflects America's concern about the human condition.

"And we also understand that when people suffer, it makes it more likely that some may turn to the ideology of those who use murder as a weapon," said President Bush. "So it is in our national security interest and it is in the interest of our conscience to confront what we have called a genocide."

The peacekeeping mission in Darfur has been hampered by a shortage of funds and equipment, including helicopters. Also, Sudan's armed forces last week attacked what the U.N. says was a clearly marked supply convoy.

A Security Council statement welcomes Khartoum's commitment to investigate the incident and expresses its readiness to take action against all parties impeding the peace process, the delivery of humanitarian aid, and the further deployment of the hybrid force.