Saturday, September 30, 2006

US and UK must end "megaphone" diplomacy on Darfur

US and UK must end "megaphone" diplomacy on Darfur
By Jeremy Lovell

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain and the United States must stop making threats over the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region because the Khartoum government knows they cannot back them up with action, a top U.N. official said on Friday.

Mark Malloch Brown, Britain's outgoing U.N. deputy secretary-general, told the Independent newspaper that London and Washington needed to tone down the rhetoric and build an international consensus.

"The megaphone diplomacy coming out of Washington and London: 'you damn well are going to let the U.N. deploy and if you don't beware the consequences' isn't plausible," Malloch Brown said in an interview published on Friday.

"So Tony Blair and George Bush need to get beyond this posturing and grandstanding," he said.

In response, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said Malloch Brown should apologize to Bush and Blair, the British prime minister.

"These remarks bring discredit on the United Nations and are a stain on its reputation," Bolton told reporters in New York. "We are proud that we have called the attention of the international community to the tragedy in Darfur."

"To have Mr. Malloch Brown attack those efforts" gives a terrible signal to the government in Khartoum, he said.

Fighting among militias, government forces and rebel groups has ravaged the vast region for three years, resulting in the killing of an estimated 200,000 people and the displacement of 2.5 million others.

The Sudanese government, accused of supporting the militias, has refused to allow the United Nations to send in a 22,000-strong force to replace the African Union and has accused it of attempting to recolonize the country.

"The Sudanese know we don't have troops to go in against a hostile Khartoum government; if Sudan opposes us there's no peace to keep anyway; you're in there to fight a war," he added. "It's just not a credible threat," Malloch Brown said.

The African Union mandate in Darfur had been set to expire at the end of September but the AU mission has now been extended by three months with additional logistical and material support from the United Nations and a funding commitment from the Arab League.


Britain, which has called repeatedly for action to resolve the Darfur crisis, has also called for a concerted political effort to turn a shaky peace agreement signed by one rebel faction and the government in May into practice.

Malloch Brown said the veiled threats left the Sudanese government free to portray itself as the "victims of the next crusade after Iraq and Afghanistan."

What was needed instead was a carrot-and-stick package, backed by an international consensus, of incentives and sanctions that could be clearly understood by Khartoum.

He said Khartoum wanted normalized relations with Britain and the United States, the ability to use its new oil wealth, a supportive U.N. deployment and protection from the International Criminal Court.

"But in the other pocket there needs to be sanctions. And those pluses and minuses need to be echoed not just by a group of Western leaders but by a much broader cross-section of countries that Sudan respects and trusts," he said.

He noted efforts to bring China, a major oil client of Sudan, into the international coalition to bring pressure to bear on Khartoum.

Malloch Brown also urged the West to fill the $300 million shortfall in aid to the starving millions in Darfur.

(Additional reporting by Evelyn Leopold at the United Nations)