WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Colin Powell ruled out the introduction of U.S. troops in the beleagured Darfur region of Sudan, saying the United States would pursue a strategy of pressuring the Sudanese government “very hard” in the U.N. Security Council to end the campaign of violence.
But national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said on Sunday that the United States and other nations are prepared to help move an expanded African peacekeeping force into position in Sudan’s Darfur region to halt bloodshed that President Bush has declared amounts to genocide.
Powell, on NBC's “Meet the Press,” told moderator Tim Russert that U.S. ground forces were not “a possibility at this time. In fact, there's not a need to. I don't think it's the right solution, and no European troops are prepared to go in. The African Union has sent in a small number of troops, but they've indicated a willingness to send in a much larger number of troops, in the thousands. And so the strategy we're following now is to press the Sudanese very hard in the Security Council.”
“It is our desire to work with the Sudanese government to complete the important work we have done in the North-South agreement, and to bring Darfur under control so that we can help the Sudanese people to a better life, to peace after so many years of war,” Powell said Sunday.
“And so our effort is not to destroy the Sudanese government or to cause them difficulty, but to help them to bring this situation under control so they can get on a path of peace and off this path of conflict.”
Rebels began an uprising in Darfur in February 2003 after years of skirmishes between mainly African farmers and Arab nomads over land and water. The government turned to the Janjaweed militias to help suppress the rebels.
The United Nations has estimated some 1.2 million people have fled their homes and up to 50,000 people have died from direct violence, starvation or illness in what it describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Rice: African forces 'ready to go'
“The key is ... to get an augmentation of the African Union force that is already on the ground,” Rice told CNN’s “Late Edition.”
“Rwandans are ready to go. Nigerians are ready to go. We are prepared, with others, to help get them there,” she added. “We’re actively involved in trying to get Khartoum to stop this terrible tragedy.”
Sudan has rejected the genocide declaration as American “posturing” and several U.N. Security Council members have raised objections to a draft resolution on Darfur circulated by Washington.
The 53-nation African Union has more than 80 observers in Darfur, but only to monitor a cease-fire between the government and rebels. Some 300 AU troops have been deployed to protect the monitors.
In a draft U.N. resolution circulated last week, the United States proposed imposing sanctions on Sudan’s oil industry if Khartoum does not disarm the Janajweed militias blamed for driving more than a million Darfuris from their homes.
Reuters contributed to this report.