- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 26, 2005

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — International donors pledged an additional $200 million yesterday to fund the African Union peacekeeping operation in Sudan’s western Darfur region during a conference to discuss the ongoing violence.

AU Commission Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare said officials were still analyzing the pledges but that it appeared enough money was raised to bolster the force currently in Darfur.

“There is a clear will. Many states and countries are willing to bridge the gap,” he told reporters.

Canada made the largest new pledge, promising $134 million. The State Department’s senior representative on Sudan, Charles Snyder, said Washington was adding $50 million to the $95 million already pledged to end what he called “acts of genocide” in the ongoing conflict.

The AU has 2,270 peacekeepers in western Sudan trying to stop the fighting between rebels and Arab militias. The AU plans to increase that number to more than 12,300. The organization has asked for $723 million to help finance and equip the Darfur operation, but was $350 million short at the beginning of yesterday’s conference.

Mr. Snyder said the violence in Darfur was abating, but that the only way to end it was to deploy a large AU force supported by NATO.

“The truth is the AU was looking for outside support, and when you are looking at support on this kind of scale we need an organization that can do it, such as NATO,” Mr. Snyder said.

AU officials announced that Darfur peace talks would resume in Abuja, Nigeria, on June 10.

“We are running a race against time,” said United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who was at the conference along with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana.

“If violence and fear prevent the people of Darfur from planting and growing crops next year, then millions will have to be sustained by an epic relief effort,” Mr. Annan said.

At a meeting Monday in Brussels, EU nations offered air and ground transportation as well as help with command planning, surveillance and housing for the AU’s Darfur peacekeepers. The EU will not send peacekeeping troops and will leave overall command of the operation to the African Union.

The crisis in Darfur erupted when rebels took up arms against what they saw as years of state neglect and discrimination against Sudanese of African origin. The government is accused of responding with a counterinsurgency campaign in which the ethnic Arab militia known as Janjaweed committed wide-scale abuses against ethnic Africans. At least 180,000 persons have died — many from hunger and disease — and about 2 million others have fled their homes.

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