- The Washington Times - Friday, March 17, 2006

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi yesterday said the warring in the Darfur region of Sudan demands immediate attention, a day after privately urging President Bush to appoint a special envoy to help end what the White House calls a genocide.

“President Bush and I don’t agree … well we disagree on almost everything, but on this we do, and he has told us ‘not on his watch’ and I believe him,” Mrs. Pelosi said after a speech to the Center for National Policy.

Mrs. Pelosi and congressional Democrats, who last month visited Darfur, told Mr. Bush in a meeting Thursday that an envoy would signal that peace in Sudan is important to the U.S.

“To do this we must stop the violence, bring the parties to the negotiating table and get humanitarian relief to the people who need it,” the California Democrat said in her address.

The war between rebels and government forces and Arab militias has killed an estimated 180,000 people and displaced 2 million more.

Mrs. Pelosi said the congressional delegation found “a mass of death, disease and despair” for the native farmers imposed by both the state-sponsored Janjaweed militia and thieving rebels.

“[Sudanese] Vice President [Ali Osman Mohammed] Taha denied what we had seen with our very eyes,” Mrs. Pelosi said.

“After persistent questioning by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Vice President Taha finally admitted that the Sudan government had supported the Janjaweed in the past,” she said.

Congress on Thursday approved more than $350 million in aid to the region, including more than $90 million for United Nations peacekeepers, who have not yet been authorized to enter the African nation.

Mrs. Pelosi said one of the problems with U.N. intervention is that the African Union has not yet requested it, and the Sudanese government fought against it in a meeting held March 10.

A decision has been postponed to give all the parties a chance to reach and sign a peace accord with a deadline of April 30. Sudan yesterday said it expected to meet the deadline.

Mrs. Pelosi said a request for U.N. troops may not come until September: “But that will only allow for more death, disease and genocide to take place.”

Part of the reason the conflict has gone on for so long without U.N. intervention is contention over whether the situation classifies as genocide. The U.N. describes the conflict as the world’s gravest humanitarian crisis.

Imam Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, said the debate is based on the semantic arguments of a “ridiculously high” standard.

“I am also troubled that during our trips there we were told by numerous officials throughout the country that the U.S. and U.N. have not given the African Union the financial support they need,” he said.

An African Union military force has been in the region acting as a peacekeeping force since October 2004, but it only has 7,000 troops to protect hundreds of thousands of displaced families in scattered camps throughout Darfur.

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