UNITED NATIONS (AP) â€” US Ambassador John Bolton accused the United Nations and some Security Council members on Monday of moving too slowly towards setting up a UN peacekeeping force in Sudan’s troubled Darfur region.Bolton expressed frustration with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and UN officials over the pace of preparation for the mission, which would replace 7,000 African Union troops. He also said African and Arab diplomats on the Security Council needed to move more quickly.
“We’re prepared, but the main thing, I think, is to get the internal UN operation to be moving more quickly, which we’d like to see,” he said.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said United Nations officials were in talks with African leaders about the force and that planning for the mission “is moving full-steam ahead.” The African Union’s mandate in Darfur expires on March 31.
Bolton’s criticism came three days after US President George W. Bush backed a larger force for Darfur, where an estimated 180,000 people have died since early 2003 when decades of tribal clashes over land and water erupted into large-scale violence.
It was Bush’s strongest statement of support yet for an expanded international role in Darfur. He said that a new mission in Darfur will require “probably double” the current number of international peacekeepers and a coordinating role for NATO.
The Security Council on February 3 urged the United Nations to start planning to take over the mission. Annan has urged major powers to take part, saying an expanded force will need the kind of assets only a highly capable military can provide.
Dujarric said United Nations officials were in talks with African leaders about the force and that preparations for the mission were under way.
“As far as we’re concerned the planning is going ahead,” Dujarric said. “We’re talking to the AU.” Bolton also appears angry with Annan himself because he believes the UN chief has urged Western powers to play a larger role but not urged African and Arab leaders to move more quickly.
Bolton said he wants the Security Council to pass a resolution by the end of the month creating the new peacekeeping force in Darfur, though that is highly unlikely. Annan must first deliver a report spelling out possible options for the force, and that will not be ready until sometime in March.
“It would be helpful, I think, if the secretary general in addition to prodding the US could also be out there talking to the African Union and the Arab League and in fact maybe even talking to his own peacekeepers about the importance of moving ahead here,” Bolton told reporters.