President George W. Bush said on Tuesday the United Nations’ credibility is at stake over the violence in Sudan’s Darfur region and challenged world leaders to act quickly to get a peacekeeping force there.
In his annual address to the U.N. General Assembly, Bush also announced he has appointed Andrew Natsios, former head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, as a special U.S. envoy to try to end the violence in Darfur.
The United Nations passed a resolution last month to send 20,000 peacekeepers to Darfur where about 7,000 African Union troops have been battling to keep the peace in an area the size of France. Sudan has so far refused to accept a U.N. force.
“The regime in Khartoum is stopping the deployment of this force. If the Sudanese government does not approve this peacekeeping force quickly, the United Nations must act,” Bush said.
Lives at stake
Addressing himself to the people of Darfur, Bush said: “Your lives and the credibility of the United Nations is at stake.”
In three years of fighting in Darfur an estimated 200,000 people have been killed and millions forced from their homes.
Aid and rights groups have complained that the Bush administration’s interest in Darfur had waned after the departure earlier this year of former Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, who had focused on the issue.