Sudanese students demonstrate against western intervention. President Omar al-Bashir has condemned the United Nations for taking a biased stand against the government.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire Photo File
9:52 MECCA TIME, 6:52 GMT
France in fresh push on Darfur
With key players like the US on board, France hopes to pressure Khartoum to deliver on its promise
France's president has opened a conference attended by the US, China and 15 other nations aimed at launching a new effort to end atrocities in Sudan's Darfur region.
Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday urged delegates in Paris to find a solution to the Darfur crisis, after Sudan agreed to the deployment of 23,000 UN and African Union [AU] in the region.
"As human beings, and as politicians, we must resolve the crisis in Darfur," Sarkozy told the officials gathered at France's Elysee presidential palace.
Khartoum is boycotting Monday's conference, arguing that the French initiative will unnecessarily duplicate efforts by the UN and the AU.
The AU is also staying away, sceptical about the meeting's purpose and annoyed about being kept out of the planning.
Sarkozy and Bernard Kouchner, France's foreign minister, have made Darfur a high priority amid concern that fighting and instability is spreading to neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic, two French allies in the region.
"It is not a peacemaking meeting. It is, on the contrary, a meeting to support the international efforts that have been deployed," Kouchner said on Sunday.
He said the meeting was aimed at offering support to the UN-AU joint effort, which will take over from a beleaguered AU force of 7,000 peacekeepers.
"If there are 20,000 soldiers coming in the hybrid force, whoever they are, they will have to be paid. And the 7,000 who are there now are not being paid, and they are doing nothing because they haven't received their salaries since January," he said.
"So if we continue like this, obviously it won't work."
Pressure on China
In a joint news conference with Kouchner on Sunday, Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, said: "It is a renewed push in which we can come together and look again at what we need to do."
The Paris conference has been seen as an opportunity to work towards ending the conflict in Darfur, in which at least 200,000 people have been killed and two million driven from their homes since 2003, according to the UN.
Pressure has been mounting on China to improve its human rights record, spearheaded by activists who accuse Beijing, Sudan's biggest oil importer, of bankrolling some of the atrocities in Darfur.
The new international push could see Khartoum come under pressure to deliver on its promise to allow a 23,000-strong peace force to be dispatched to Darfur and to re-start peace negotiations with anti-government fighters.
France's financial aid to Darfur remains low compared with other European powers.
UN figures show that France gave $5.25m in 2006 and $3.4m so far this year.
AU miffed over France’s Darfur drive
Mon, 25 Jun 2007
France brings the United States, China and some 15 other nations together for a major conference on Monday aimed at launching a new international drive to end atrocities in Sudan's Darfur region.
The meeting comes after Sudan bowed to months of pressure and agreed to the deployment of peacekeepers in Darfur under the United Nations and the African Union.
Khartoum is boycotting the conference, angry that it was not consulted during preparations for the meeting and arguing that the French initiative will unnecessarily duplicate efforts by the UN and the AU.
The African Union is also staying away, sceptical about the meeting's purpose and miffed at being kept out of the planning.
The Paris conference is nevertheless seen as an opportunity to help end the conflict in Darfur, which has pitted a rebel insurgency against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum and its proxy militia known as the Janjaweed, whose leader stands accused of war crimes.
At least 200 000 people have been killed and two million driven from their homes since 2003, according to the United Nations. Khartoum says those figures are exaggerated.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner have made Darfur a high priority amid concern for the instability spreading to neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic, two French allies in the region.
The US administration is facing an increasingly vocal rights movement with Hollywood stars George Clooney and Angelina Jolie using their celebrity status to raise public awareness about the plight of Darfur's refugees.
China accused of bankrolling atrocities
Pressure is also mounting on China ahead of the 2008 Olympics to improve its human rights record, spearheaded by activists who accuse Beijing, Sudan's biggest oil importer, of helping Khartoum bankroll some of the atrocities in Darfur.
With Paris, Beijing and Washington apparently on the same page, the new international push could see Khartoum come under pressure to deliver on its promise to allow a 23 000-strong peace force to be dispatched to Darfur and to re-start peace negotiations with the rebel groups.
Sarkozy on Monday is due to welcome the foreign ministers at the Elysee palace before the conference officially opens.