WASHINGTON — Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a Democratic presidential candidate, called Wednesday for the use of military force to end the suffering in Darfur.
"I would use American force now," Biden said at a hearing before his committee. "I think it's not only time not to take force off the table. I think it's time to put force on the table and use it."
In advocating use of military force, Biden said senior U.S. military officials in Europe told him that 2,500 U.S. troops could "radically change the situation on the ground now."
"Let's stop the bleeding," Biden said. "I think it's a moral imperative."
Under U.N.-backed agreements approved last fall, a hybrid force of 22,000 African Union and U.N. peacekeepers are to be deployed in Darfur to protect and provide relief for 2.5 million Darfurians who have been forced from their homes and are now confined to camps.
"We must set a hard deadline for Khartoum to accept a hybrid U.N.-AU force," Biden said.
The Bush administration has always rejected use of military force in Darfur, partly because of a possible outcry, particularly in Muslim countries about hostile U.S. action in yet another Islamic country on the heels of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Andrew Natsios, the special U.S. envoy to Sudan, said the U.S. has agreed to a request by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for a two- to four-week delay in imposing unilateral sanctions against Sudan so negotiations can take place on whether Sudan will accept deployment of international peacekeepers for Darfur.
Natsios said the U.S. is contemplating sanctions against 29 Sudanese companies. He said they are the type of sanctions that have been imposed with some success against Iran and North Korea.
If the sanctions are applied on the Sudanese companies, he said, they could lead to the paralysis of some of their operations.
"It will have an affect on the economy," Natsios said in testimony to the committee.
Biden, of Delaware, and other senators expressed impatience with the lack of progress on Darfur four years after civil strife broke out between Arab and black tribes in the western Sudanese region.
Sudan's government has agreed to the initial stages of the proposed deployment. But President Omar al-Bashir has rejected full deployment, concerned that Sudanese sovereignty will be violated and the troops will arrest Sudanese officials suspected of authorizing war crimes.
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