Nairobi, Kenya (CNSNews.com) - Amid reports that displaced women are being raped, private property plundered, and relief agencies attacked, Sudan's Islamist government is refusing to reverse its opposition to the entry of U.N. peacekeepers in the Darfur region.
President Bush is sending a senior envoy, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer, to Khartoum on Friday in a bid to persuade the authorities to reconsider.
African church leaders and analysts are urging the international community, including the Africa Union (A.U.), to increase the pressure on President Omar al-Bashir's government to stop the carnage in Darfur.
Sudanese church leaders meeting in Kenya said the first step should be the withdrawal from Darfur of the Khartoum-sponsored militia known as the Janjaweed, blamed by rights groups for civilian atrocities.
Then the government should agree to the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping force, they said.
"Peace in Darfur is essential for the stability of the whole country. We ask all our international friends to help to achieve a genuine peace there," said Bishop Daniel Deng of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan.
Khartoum vigorously opposes the arrival of a U.N. force, suggesting instead that an existing, 7,000-strong A.U. force be strengthened. The A.U. wants to hand its mission over to the U.N. by October, a position backed by Washington.
Sudan recently made a new proposal - supported by the Arab League - to deploy 10,000 of its own national troops in the Darfur. The plan was rejected by the U.S. and by human rights campaigners.
Only a credible and legitimate U.N. force could stop the atrocities, said State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos.
Washington also has warned of heavy consequences should Sudan make good on threats to fire at U.N. peacekeepers.
At least two A.U. peacekeepers have been killed and dozens more injured in new attacks by unidentified assailants in Darfur.
Last week, the U.S. and Britain introduced a Security Council resolution to send some 17,000 U.N. peacekeepers to Darfur by Oct. 1.
Sudan and the Arab League are opposed to the resolution, which Britain's U.N. ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said hoped could be adopted by the end of August..
John Prendergast, an adviser to the global monitoring group, the International Crisis Group, said atrocities in Darfur would not stop unless U.N. member states deal more harshly with Khartoum.
Regional security analyst Adan Mohamed said the Sudanese government feared its sovereignty will be at stake if it allowed U.N. peacekeepers onto its soil.
"The regime is also keen to be in control of what happens in Darfur now and after there is peace," said Mohamed. He said the U.N. would need to act faster and apply more pressure on Khartoum.
Ann-Louise Colgan of Africa Action, a group that lobbies for pro-Africa U.S. policies, called on Washington to "take new steps to challenge Khartoum's stonewalling."
Aid agencies say while reduced funding was a challenge, deterioration of security was a major threat, with humanitarian workers' lives at risk. As a result, civilians are suffering even more.
The U.N. World Food Program said the poor security situation had made it too dangerous for truck convoys to drive through large areas in north and south Darfur, where fresh outbreaks of fighting have occurred.
On Wednesday, the International Rescue Agency, another aid agency, reported that sexual attacks against displaced Darfurian women had risen dramatically, from a handful a month near the largest displaced persons' camp, to more than 200 over the past five weeks.
More than 200,000 people are reported to have been killed and over two million have fled their homes since early 2003, when fighting erupted between African rebel groups and militias backed by the Arab-led Khartoum government.
Invoking Hizballah, Sudan's Leader Vows to Defeat Any UN Force (Aug. 16, 2006)
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