Britain asks UN to stop Darfur raids

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Britain is pressing for the UN Security Council to take action to resolve the humanitarian crisis in Sudan's Darfur region, despite resistance from other council members, the Secretary of State for International Development said yesterday.

Britain is pressing for the UN Security Council to take action to resolve the humanitarian crisis in Sudan's Darfur region, despite resistance from other council members, the Secretary of State for International Development said yesterday.

Hilary Benn said Britain was working on a draft resolution for a peace-keeping mission to enforce the deal ending Khartoum's long war with rebels in southern Sudan. "It seems inconceivable that the council should pass a resolution relating to Sudan that doesn't deal with the crisis in Darfur," Mr Benn said in London after returning from western Sudan. "This is the most serious humanitarian emergency in the world today."

Government-backed Arab militias, called Janjaweed, have driven out more than one million Africans from their homes in what has been described as a scorched-earth campaign of ethnic cleansing. Mr Benn, who also briefed Parliament yesterday, said that he saw burnt-out villages on his visit.

"I made it very clear to the government of Sudan that they must bear the primary responsibility of bringing the fighting to an end, for reining in the Janjaweed and other militias, and for seeking a political solution," Mr Benn said.

He added that the UK position in calling for the draft resolution to include Darfur, "is not a view shared by everybody". Although the US agrees with the British position, it appears that there is resistance among some council members to be seen to be "Arab-bashing" so soon after the Iraq war.

Mr Benn's Tory shadow, John Bercow, said: "Given that it is vital that the impotence and passivity of the UN in the face of genocide in Rwanda are not repeated now in Sudan, you need to press for a robust Security Council resolution which explicitly condemns the government of Sudan for the ethnic cleansing in Darfur." He called for an investigation into possible war crimes in Darfur.

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