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US Pressures Sudan to Stop Violence in Darfur Region - 2004-04-07


The United States stepped up diplomatic pressure on Sudan Wednesday for an end to violence in the western Darfur region. President Bush said the government in Khartoum cannot expect normal relations with Washington as long as it remains complicit in the brutalization of Darfur.

What is described here as an intensive U.S. diplomatic effort was underscored by the strongly worded written statement by Mr. Bush from Crawford, Texas. The president said the Sudanese government must immediately stop local militias in Darfur from committing atrocities against the local population, and allow unrestricted access to the area by humanitarian aid agencies.

Thousands of people have been killed and nearly a million displaced by the Darfur fighting, which has intensified in recent months and overshadowed U.S. supported talks for an end to Sudan's two-decade-old north-south civil war.

In his statement, Mr. Bush said he continued to hope for peace in Sudan and for normalization of relations with that country.

He said the government must not remain complicit in the brutalization of Darfur, and he renewed his call on Khartoum authorities to both bring the peace process with the southern rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, the SPLM, to a just conclusion, and to bring peace and justice to Darfur.

U.N. officials and human rights groups have accused government-backed Arab militiamen fighting local rebels in Darfur of using ethnic cleansing tactics against African villagers, and the issue has gained added attention in recent days amid observances of the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan suggested Wednesday that outside military intervention might be needed in Darfur, though State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said U.S. officials believe the situation can still be resolved through diplomacy:

"We understand and share the secretary general's concern about what's going on there," he said. "Our focus is on diplomatic efforts to bring about a cease-fire and to stop the bloodshed. We believe that those efforts can succeed, and will succeed."

Mr. Ereli said acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Charles Snyder raised the Darfur issue Wednesday in a meeting with Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha on the sidelines of the north-south peace talks in Naivasha, Kenya.

He said another senior State Department official, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration Mike McKinley, is taking part in Darfur peace talks in the Chadian capital, N'Djamena.

Representatives of the Sudanese government and Darfur rebel groups met directly late Tuesday for the first time since the talks, mediated by Chad and the African Union, began late last month.

More than 100,000 people from Darfur have taken refuge in Chad since the fighting in the region erupted more than a year ago.