Wed, Jun 27, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Meeting on Darfur ends with precious little accomplished


They came, they met, they agreed that more must be done, but a gathering aimed at solving the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region ended on Monday with little visible progress.

"We really must redouble our efforts and I think that [this] was the spirit of today's conference," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said at a brief news conference after the day of closed meetings. "The point here was to take stock of where we are and to make sure that we are doing everything we can."

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the delegations from 18 countries -- including Sudan's major donors, the G8 and China -- had reaffirmed their support for a joint African Union (AU) and UN peacekeeping force as outlined in a deal reached with the Sudanese government this month.

"There is a little light at the end of the darkness," Kouchner told reporters.

But there was no announcement of which countries would contribute soldiers, nor was there any signal that China had softened its resistance to levying sanctions on Sudan, a measure that would require Chinese acquiescence to win approval from the Security Council.

China is a staunch ally of Sudan and major buyer of its oil.

France said it would contribute about US$13.5 million to help finance the peacekeeping force. It has spent about US$3.4 million on aid to Darfur so far this year and about US$5.25 million last year, UN figures showed. The EU promised to spend an extra US$42 million for humanitarian aid in the coming months.

Since early 2003, Arab militias known as janjaweed have been raping and killing non-Arabs in Darfur, ostensibly as part of the Sudanese government's effort to suppress a rebellion there. The administration of US President George W. Bush has labeled the violence genocide, but the limited AU peacekeeping force there has been unable to curb it. The situation has grown increasingly chaotic as rebel groups and the militias splinter off into factions, making for a multi-layered, confusing conflict.

The AU and the UN hope to get all factions to sit down for peace talks in August. China's special envoy, Liu Guijin (劉貴今), told reporters on Monday that Sudan was ready to take part in such talks.

But delegates said that with more than a dozen armed groups operating in the region, negotiating peace would be difficult.

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