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Blair Gets Tough With Sudan Government Over Darfur Crisis  - 2004-10-06

British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave Sudan's government a plan for dealing with the crisis in Darfur on Wednesday, during talks in Khartoum with top Sudanese officials. Prime Minister Tony Blair was blunt following his talks with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Vice President Ali Osman Taha.

"We can't have a situation where thousands of people are dying and nothing is being done about the security situation which brings that about," said Mr. Blair. "So, getting the humanitarian help in is important but I think the humanitarian assistance is there. It is the security problem that is making it difficult."

Mr. Blair said the international community will not rest until the violence and unfolding humanitarian crisis in Darfur is put to end. He then gave the Sudanese government a list of demands to make that happen.

Among them are reigning in renegade troops and the Arab Janjaweed militias, which are accused of committing atrocities against black villagers. Mr. Blair said Sudan must also allow a significant expansion of African Union forces in Darfur, must negotiate a truce with Darfur's two rebel groups and must abide by resolutions passed by the U.N. Security Council.

Finally, Mr. Blair said the Khartoum government must make peace throughout Sudan, including in its war against southern-based rebels, by the end of the year.

The British prime minister is the most senior western leader to visit Sudan to directly pressure its leaders to act in Darfur.

International outrage against the government has been growing as the humanitarian crisis in Darfur unfolds. The United Nations estimates more than one million black villagers have been displaced, mostly due to attacks by pro-government Arab militias during 19 months of civil war. The latest U.N. Security Council resolution threatens possible sanctions against Sudan's oil industry.

Sudan says it is doing all it can in Darfur, and has denied backing to the Janjaweed. But a report by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan on Tuesday said the Sudanese government has made no progress in ending attacks against civilians in Darfur and that it has done nothing to prosecute those responsible for atrocities.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Blair is to attend a meeting of the Commission for Africa, which he created last year to focus international attention on the continent's problems, including poverty, disease and debt.