Sarkozy: Darfur solution is crucial

Condoleezza Rice echoes the new French president's call for international action.

    Kouchner, right, tried to strike an optimistic note at the meeting in Paris [AFP]

    "As human beings, and as politicians, we must resolve the crisis in Darfur," Sarkozy said after hosting the meeting in the Elysee palace in Paris.

    Sudan no-show

    Delegations from the world's top aid donors, members of the Group of Eight industrialised nations and from China, a key ally of Sudan, met to help find a political solution to the conflict and provide cash for peacekeeping and humanitarian aid.

    Several delegates, however, said they did not expect a large package of immediate measures to be agreed, though some countries could pledge troops and funds for a planned "hybrid" UN and African Union (AU) peacekeeping force.

    Sudan, which did not attend the meeting, agreed earlier this month to the combined UN-AU force of more than 20,000 troops and police but many diplomats doubt it will keep its word.

    Rice however warned countries participating in the conference not to  abandon the momentum towards a solution.

    "We really must redouble our efforts"

    Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state

    "Those who have been around this for a while are going to work  very hard against backtracking. We have had circumstances in which  we have had agreements before and those agreements have not gone  forward," she said.


    The aim of the force is to stop the violence in Darfur, where international experts estimate 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been expelled from their homes in more than four years of conflict. Sudan says only 9,000 people have died.

    Greater interest

    Sarkozy said the existing force of 7,000 AU troops, which is widely seen as ineffective and is to be reinforced by the proposed hybrid force, must get more funding. He said France was willing to contribute roughly $13.46 million.

    The EU pledged an extra $41.7 million of humanitarian funds for "the coming months".


    France has shown greater interest in Darfur since Sarkozy took office and has proposed sending an international force to neighbouring Chad to provide stability for refugee camps there, which house tens of thousands of people who have fled Darfur.

    Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, did try and offer some cause for optimism, by arguing that the "future is brighter" for Darfur and that  there was "a little light at the end of the darkness".

    French financial aid to Darfur remains low compared with other European powers. It gave $5.2 million in 2006, with $3.3 million this year, UN figures show.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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