Bush sent letter to Minnawi assuring US support of Darfur peace accord - Ceasefire due in 7 days - US asked Rwanda to add 1,200 peacekeepers to AMIS
Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, who helped spur negotiators to agree to stop the killing in Darfur, said Friday the embattled East African country is far from safe even if the peace agreement should take hold.Further reading
Zoellick also said the United States had asked Rwanda to send in 1,200 troops to supplement the 7,000 African Union monitors already in place.
Speaking to reporters by telephone from Abuja, Nigeria, where the drawn-out talks ended in Friday's signing, Zoellick said that he hoped for a significant decline in violence.
Nevertheless, he said, Darfur "is going to remain a dangerous place. There is still a lot of distrust and fear."
In response to questions, Zoellick said there were "spoilers still there."
"That is a reality and certainly a danger," he said.
At the same time, Zoellick said, "there is a lot of sense of trying to have a new start for the people of Darfur."
President Bush intervened during the difficult negotiations, sending a letter to the largest rebel group, Minni Minnawi, with assurances that the United States would give strong support to implementation of the peace accord, assist monitoring compliance, hold accountable those who do not cooperate and support a donors' conference for Darfur, Zoellick said.
The deputy secretary said he read the letter to the assembled parties during the night.
A cease-fire is supposed to take effect in seven days, and the government is required within 37 days to complete a plan to move armed militia to restricted areas, remove heavy weapons and for disarmament of the warring groups.
"There will be a push definitely to move forward the U.N. peacekeeping force," he said. However, a rainy season in June will delay the process of reorganizing the African Union forces into U.N. blue berets. Zoellick, having talked with several African leaders, said that there are estimates it would require at least four to six months.
The United States will do whatever it can to help the peacekeepers, Zoellick promised, but he stressed "this was an African event and there is a lot of emotion."
"One of the trials of this whole process is there is a deep legacy of distrust and fear," he said. "One of the things that prolonged the discussions in Abuja month after month is that people were just talking past each other.''
"It was not traditional negotiations," he said.
May 6 2006 Reuters Annan pushes Sudan to move fast on UN peacekeepers: Kofi Annan pressed Sudan's government on Friday to quickly let UN planners begin preparing for a peacekeeping mission in Darfur after the signing of a long-delayed peace agreement. "Now is the time for them to allow the assessment mission to go in, for us to move expeditiously, and I do intend to be in touch with the Sudanese authorities precisely on this point," Annan told reporters.
May 5 2006 Reuters US says Rwanda may send in more troops to Darfur: "It's a time to turn from guns and bullets," Zoellick told US-based reporters in a conference call from Abuja, where he helped in marathon negotiations to reach a deal with Sudan's main rebel group and the government. Two smaller groups have not signed it.
May 5 2006 Darfur rebels who refused to sign risk UN sanctions - Breakaway members of Nur faction embraced Minnawi and Khalifa while tribal leaders cheered
May 5 2006 International mediators making efforts to include Darfur rebel factions SLM and JEM in peace deal
May 5 2006 Sudan govt, Minnawi's SLA sign Darfur peace deal - 2 rival factions refused the deal
May 5 2006 SLA's Minnawi accepts amended Darfur deal with some reservations re power sharing
May 5 2006 Reuters Chronology of Darfur conflict, peace efforts
May 5 2006 BBC analysis Who are Sudan's Darfur rebels?
Quote of the Week
"It's a time to turn from guns and bullets."
- US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, May 5, 2006, Abuja, Nigeria.
Photo: Rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) faction leader Minni Arcua Minnawi signs a deal with the Sudanese government in the Nigerian capital Abuja May 5, 2006, after days and nights of intense talks under global pressure. The government of Sudan and the main Darfur rebel faction signed a peace agreement on Friday to end three years of fighting that has killed many thousands of people and forced 2 million to flee their homes. (Photo Reuters/STR)