- The Washington Times - Friday, September 22, 2006

NEW YORK — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pressed Sudan to accept a United Nations force in Darfur yesterday, saying that Khartoum’s consent would be welcome but is not necessary.

“It is now time for the Sudanese government to accept the will of the United Nations, to work with us fully in implementing Resolution 1706,” Miss Rice told reporters after a meeting of European Union foreign ministers and others.

She was referring to the U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing a U.N. peacekeeping mission of up to 20,000 to halt what the United States and other nations have called a “genocide.” The new force would replace about 7,000 African Union peacekeepers, whose mission was extended this week until the end of the year.

Miss Rice said there are “other measures available to the international community” to send the troops into Darfur, should the Sudanese government continue to refuse.

The meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly session in New York took place amid new charges by U.N. human rights officials that Sudan’s army continues to bomb villages in north Darfur.

The latest campaign, U.N. officials said, targets parts of the vast region in western Sudan that are not covered by a May peace agreement between the government and one rebel faction.

“Our intention, I want to underscore, is not to impinge upon Sudan’s sovereignty. But let there be no doubt about our resolve,” Miss Rice said.

Hours before the ministers met at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, 10 Darfur refugees wearing blue berets held a press conference in the same building to appeal for U.N. troops to save family members who are still alive.

“Words and meetings won’t help,” said Rahama Deffallah, president of Darfur People’s Association of New York. “Please Secretary Rice, you can help save millions of lives.”

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have already been killed in the conflict, which has forced millions into squalid refugee camps protected by the small AU force.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the AU had asked the alliance to give more support to the AU peacekeepers.

Mr. de Hoop Scheffer said NATO should “answer positively and favorably” to the request from Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou-Nguesso. He is also the current head of the AU.

“I promise the president of the African Union that I, as secretary-general, will do everything I can with the allies to see that NATO can respond positively to these kinds of requests,” Mr. de Hoop Scheffer said.

In Geneva, U.N. human rights spokesman Jose Luis Diaz told reporters that survivors told U.N. monitors of bombings near Tabarat in north Darfur earlier this month, which drove some 400 people into a refugee camp.

“People talk about this white plane and bombs being dropped out of the back of the plane. This is a recurrent feature of reports of attacks on villages,” he said. “All indications are this kind of attack is continuing.”

U.N. monitors also reported that sexual violence, which has been a permanent feature of the conflict, continues in south Darfur, particularly near the town of Gereida.

“This has become almost a cliche: women go outside of [refugee] camps to collect firewood or engage in commerce, and they become vulnerable to attacks by what are said to be military personnel or militia,” Mr. Diaz said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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