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EU presses Sudan to accept U.N. mission in Darfur

Sept 15, 2006 (BRUSSELS) — The European Union pressed Sudan on Friday to accept a 20,000-strong U.N. peace operation in Darfur, warning a security vacuum there could lead to a humanitarian crisis reminiscent of the Rwanda genocide.

“Without transition to the United Nations and with the African Union leaving, we would, as Kofi Annan said, be going towards another Rwanda,” European Commission aid spokesman Amadeu Altafaj said.

The U.N. secretary-general on Monday warned of further disasters in Darfur unless U.N. troops deployed, evoking the 1994 genocide in Rwanda by asking if the international community could watch without intervening as another tragedy unfolded.

The EU’s foreign ministers, meeting on Friday in Brussels, backed Annan and urged Khartoum to drop its opposition to 20,000 United Nations troops replacing the cash-strapped 7,000-strong African Union mission, whose Darfur mandate expires on Sept. 30.

“History will punish us hard if we passively observe this horrible development,” Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller told reporters. “The fighting has already cut off humanitarian assistance to more than 1 million refugees”.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Thursday once more refused to allow the United Nations into Darfur.

He has likened the prospect to an invasion force whose goal is regime change. Analysts say the government in Khartoum fears U.N. forces would arrest suspects likely to be named in any war crimes warrants issued by the International Criminal Court.

Fighting, disease and hunger have killed some 200,000 people in Darfur and driven 2.5 million into squalid camps since the conflict started in 2003. The conflict has created one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Washington has called it genocide, a charge Khartoum denies.

STOP ATTACKING CIVILIANS

The EU will exert increased diplomatic pressure on Sudan at next week’s U.N.’s General Assembly in New York, Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern told reporters. He said that if diplomatic efforts failed, sanctions would be envisaged.

“There’s not any question of people invading but … we are talking about issues like sanctions,” he said, mentioning a “coalition of the willing”.

Actor George Clooney and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel told the U.N. Security Council Thursday the world would be blamed for another Rwanda if it did not stop the atrocities in Darfur.

The EU’s special envoy Pekka Haavisto said on Tuesday after a visit to Darfur that government forces were bombing civilians in an operation reminiscent of the early stages of the conflict.

The ministers “stressed that the Sudanese Government should stop their military action in Darfur, abide by the ceasefire agreement and respect their commitments under the DPA (Darfur Peace Agreement).”

The DPA was signed in May by the government and one Darfur rebel faction but it has been denounced by thousands in Darfur who say it does not guarantee even their most basic rights.

Aid workers say since May the situation in Darfur has only deteriorated and their work has been greatly inhibited.

The EU said in a statement it was “alarmed by the renewed fighting in areas of North Darfur, the recent military build-up in Darfur and the reinforcement of the government forces.”

Sudan is now sending troops to the region to fight rebels who did not sign a faltering May peace agreement.

(Reuters)

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