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US Congress Urges Bush to Declare Darfur Attacks Genocide - 2004-07-23

The U.S. Congress has declared the mass killing of civilians in Sudan's Darfur region to be genocide and in a non-binding resolution, lawmakers are urging President Bush to do the same. Bush Administration officials, however, have so far declined to label the situation in Darfur a genocide. Under terms of a 1948 United Nations convention on genocide, that classification would require countries that signed the document to intervene. At this point there are no U.S. plans to intervene in the conflict militarily.

Secretary of State Colin Powell has called the situation in Sudan's western Darfur region a humanitarian catastrophe, but says a judgment has not yet been made on whether the killing of civilians there actually constitutes genocide.

Doing so, as the United States belatedly did during the civil war in Rwanda a decade ago, would obligate signatories to the 1948 U.N. Convention on Genocide to intervene to stop it, something the United States and Britain do not rule out but consider premature at this point.

U.S. General Charles Wald, the deputy commander of American forces in Europe and much of Africa says right now, the U.S. military has offered to advise African governments on conducting humanitarian missions, and has not been asked to intervene militarily.

"We have a liaison officer to the African Union out of Addis Ababa," he said. "The African Union is right now in the lead for the Sudan mission as you know, and we support that and believe the African Union is the right vehicle for the support of the Sudan mission."

Britain is also letting African nations take the lead.

"I think we need to work very carefully with the African Union because after all, they are the regional political body and there's no point in doing things unless you've got very clear support in the region," said British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Thursday, Secretary of State Powell questioned the effectiveness of military intervention while saying the Khartoum government, which denies involvement in the Darfur conflict, must take immediate steps to end the violence.

"They have the responsibility," he added. "They have been supporting and sustaining some of these Janjaweed elements, this has to end. We have made this clear to the Sudanese leadership. We still know there are bombings that take place."

A U.S. official says Washington is gravely concerned over reports the Sudanese military has now taken possession of the last of 12 MiG fighter jets purchased from Russia three years ago, aircraft which human rights groups say have been used against civilians in the region. A Russian diplomat in Washington says the planes were purchased under a completely legal transaction.