Tags: U.K.'s | Tony | Blair: | Darfur | Situation | 'Unacceptable'

U.K.'s Tony Blair: Darfur Situation is 'Unacceptable'

Friday, 15 September 2006 12:00 AM

LONDON -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Saturday he will propose an incentive package for Sudan as part of a new initiative to end the crisis in war-torn Darfur and get U.N. peacekeeping troops on the ground.

"In the coming weeks I will talk to other leaders to agree on an initiative that sets out the help Sudan can expect if the government lives up to its obligations and what will happen if they don't," Blair said in a statement.

The western region of Sudan bordering Chad has been rent by political and ethnic violence since 2003. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than 2 million displaced by fighting between government troops, rebels and militias.

Western leaders, some African presidents and humanitarian groups are piling pressure on Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to accept a U.N. resolution to deploy more than 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur.

The mandate for 7,000 poorly equipped and under-funded African Union troops is due to expire on Sept. 30 and Sudan has said they would only be allowed to extend their mission if they remain under AU control.

"The situation is unacceptable. I do not understand the government of Sudan's rejection of the U.N. force, or its threat to withdraw its welcome from the AU," Blair said.

"The government of Sudan must agree to the continuation of the (African Union) force and transition to the U.N.," he said.

A British official said Blair's aim was to get the African Union, European Union, the United Nations and the United States to back the initiative at the highest level.

The official said the plan would make clear what Sudan could expect to get in return for playing its part in ending the crisis, saying the incentives would be a road-map for normalising relations with international powers.

They could include ending suspensions of development and recovery aid, resolving Sudan's debt situation, establishing higher level political contacts and moving towards the lifting of sanctions, he said.

"If they do not shoulder their responsibilities, then they would face serious consequences," he told Reuters, declining to elaborate on what the consequences might be.

Blair's comments come a day after U.S. Oscar-winning actor George Clooney told the United Nations time was running out in Darfur and the world would be blamed for a genocide akin to Rwanda if atrocities were not halted.

A global day for Darfur is also planned for Sunday. Activists and religious leaders throughout the world will hold demonstrations and meetings to raise political awareness about the bloodshed and humanitarian crisis in the region.

Analysts say getting Sudan's close ally China on board to deliver the message to Khartoum would be key for progress.

China abstained in the U.N. Security Council vote on the resolution for U.N. peacekeepers to take over from the AU, but Beijing has since been lobbying Sudan to let troops into Darfur.

Blair discussed Darfur with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during meetings in London this week and has also spoken to U.S. President George W. Bush about the situation recently.

(c) Reuters 2006. All rights reserved.

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LONDON -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Saturday he will propose an incentive package for Sudan as part of a new initiative to end the crisis in war-torn Darfur and get U.N. peacekeeping troops on the ground. "In the coming weeks I will talk to other leaders...
U.K.'s,Tony,Blair:,Darfur,Situation,'Unacceptable'
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2006-00-15
Friday, 15 September 2006 12:00 AM
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