UNITED NATIONS – Sudan stepped up opposition to a U.N. peacekeeping mission for Darfur, warning that it would consider any country’s pledge to supply police or troops to a U.N. force “a hostile act” and a “prelude to an invasion” of the Islamic country.
The Sudanese statement comes more than two weeks after the United Nations sent a letter urging scores of governments to commit troops for a Darfur mission. Khartoum reiterates its “total rejection” of an Aug. 31 Security Council resolution authorizing a U.N. force of about 20,000 for the troubled Darfur region.
In response, the United States on Thursday convened an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council and accused Sudan of defying the will of the 15-nation body. “I think they are trying to intimidate troop-contributing countries,” said John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Bolton sought to rally council support for a statement deploring Sudan’s attempt “to intimidate potential” troop contributors. Bolton’s action was the latest attempt by the Bush administration to increase international pressure on Sudan to allow U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on a tour of the Middle East, has urged Arab leaders to help persuade Khartoum to let the United Nations intervene in the violence in Darfur. President Bush’s special envoy for Sudan, Andrew Natsios, met Thursday with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
But other Security Council members cautioned the United States not to overreact, noting that Khartoum has been cooperating with U.N. efforts to support a smaller African peacekeeping force of 7,000 in Darfur.
In a separate, more conciliatory letter Tuesday, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir told Annan that he welcomes the more modest U.N. plan to provide equipment, communications and a team of about 200 advisers to the African force.
Darfur has been the scene of the some of the worst violence in Africa in more than a decade. The Sudanese government, backed by local Arab militias, has mounted a bloody counterinsurgency campaign against civilians suspected of supporting Darfur rebel groups. The conflict has left as many as 450,000 people dead and driven more than 2 million people from their homes.
The African Union peacekeepers have been struggling, with little success, to stem the violence in Darfur. Faced with a resurgence of fighting, the Security Council approved the deployment of about 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers with the authority to use “all necessary means” – including military force – to help restore calm in Darfur.