French FM: 'real question' whether to deploy UN force to Darfur despite Sudan opposition
France's foreign minister said Thursday it's a "real question" whether the United Nations should send a force into Darfur -- even in the face of resistance by Sudan's government.French FM speaks of Darfur "genocide" for first time
Philippe Douste-Blazy said he planned to visit the troubled region and meet with Sudanese officials soon, in hopes of finding a diplomatic solution to end years of deadly violence in Darfur.
He urged Sudanese authorities to accept a UN force for Darfur, which was called for in a Security Council resolution passed last week. It was quickly rejected by Khartoum.
"Do we go there, in spite of them?" Douste-Blazy told a news conference. "That's not on the table, nobody has asked the question like that. But it's a real question."
"It is essential that the Sudanese ... accept the arrival of this force," he told reporters, adding that the prospective 20,000-strong peacekeeping force would be the largest in UN history.
The minister said he would go to Sudan "very soon," in part to listen to Khartoum's concerns about the council resolution. He did not specify when the trip was planned.
"What's most important is to take up the subject politically," he said. "But in the world today, we don't have a right to let these women and children die."
In some of harshest language yet about Darfur by French officials, Douste-Blazy, speaking Wednesday on RMC radio, denounced a "veritable genocide" in the region.
Sudanese government forces last week launched a major offensive believed to involve thousands of troops and aircraft to combat rebel strongholds in Darfur.
Sep 7 2006 Sudan Tribune report: French FM speaks of Darfur "genocide" for first time - the first time a French government figure has used the term. Questioned later by journalists, foreign ministry spokesman Jean-Baptise Mattei indicated that Douste-Blazy's words did not mean a change of French policy.
Sep 7 2006 Reuters report: Sudan must accept U.N. force for Darfur -France - The minister said up to 300,000 people had died in Darfur. He said he would visit Sudan very shortly to discuss the problems, but insisted the United Nations forces had to be given access. "It is essential that the Sudanese authorities, who are sovereign over this territory, accept this force," he said. "We have to be aware of what is going on in Darfur. It is not acceptable and is excessive," he added.