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Pentagon Closely Monitors Situation in Sudan's Darfour Region - 2004-04-01

U.S. defense officials are closely monitoring developments in Sudan's troubled Darfur region but say there are no plans at present for any military response to the humanitarian crisis there.

The situation in Sudan's western Darfur region has been called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world by senior U.N. officials and possibly a case of genocide comparable in character, if not scale, to the Rwanda bloodshed of 10 years ago.

Pentagon officials are monitoring the situation closely.

But they tell VOA the secretary of defense has not been requested to prepare any military response.

U.S. military personnel have had considerable experience in the past decade responding to humanitarian crises, including deployments in Somalia and Rwanda.

But defense officials note they have a lot of other missions at the present time, a clear reference to the military's multiple engagements worldwide, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti.

An estimated 10,000 people have died in a year of fighting between Sudanese government-backed Arab militias and rebels in the Darfur region. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced from their homes, many of them fleeing into neighboring Chad.

The U.S. State Department has blamed much of the crisis on the Arab militias, who it says have attacked and burned undefended villages, murdered and raped inhabitants and displaced survivors, even though most of the region's mainly black African residents are Muslim.

Peace talks are under way in Chad between Sudanese officials and representatives of rebel groups. International observers are on hand, including U.S. officials.

The U.S. government has been working closely with other countries to push diplomatically for a peace settlement.

At the same time, relief organizations, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, are trying to provide humanitarian assistance to the hundreds of thousands affected by the fighting. The State Department announced a $9 million emergency aid package for Darfur refugees in Chad in late February.