Monday, January 16, 2006

Rice chides Khartoum and backs major U.N. role in Darfur

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on a visit to Liberia for the inauguration of Africa's first woman president said on Monday she favoured a major U.N. role in Darfur and told Khartoum it must cooperate in accepting international help. Excerpts from Jan 16 Reuters report:

[Rice] said the African Union mission in Darfur was "not falling apart" but it needed help from the United Nations and possibly more NATO assistance.

"I think it's doing a good job but it is pretty close to the limits of what it can do in its size and configuration. There are issues in how to sustain it," said Rice of the estimated 7,000 African Union (AU) troops struggling to keep the peace in Sudan's vast western region.

"We favour a U.N. mission which has the qualities of sustainability that comes from the whole U.N. peacekeeping system," she added.

"I think the Khartoum government should be cooperative," said Rice. "They have a problem in Darfur. The international community expects them to contribute to solving it and also expects them to allow the international community to contribute to solving it," she added.

Rice said NATO could also possibly do more in Darfur. Asked whether the United States was willing to provide troops, a move Khartoum opposes, Rice did not answer the question but pointed out that the United States was a member of NATO.

Rice stressed the AU wanted this to be an African mission in Darfur and hopefully there would be enough African troops to do the job.

"There will undoubtedly also need to be more forces available for the AU mission. We will pretty soon here be in the business of seeing who might be willing to contribute more towards the AU mission," said Rice.

Rice said she was troubled by the deteriorating security situation between Chad and Sudan over rebel and militia raids in Darfur and this heightened the need for U.N. involvement.

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