WASHINGTON – The Senate on Thursday allocated $60 million toward launching a U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Darfur region of Sudan.
The money to help stem the brutality and chaos in Darfur is part of the $94.5 billion emergency spending bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and aid to Gulf Coast hurricane victims. President Bush has said he will sign it into law.
The Darfur money was included in an amendment sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and co-sponsored by Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan. To pay for the proposed peacekeeping mission, funding for a huge U.S. embassy project in Baghdad was cut.
Menendez said he hoped a U.N. peacekeeping mission would bring peace and stability to the region. In 2004, Congress enacted a measure to stop trade and separately approved a resolution declaring that the atrocities in western Sudan were acts of genocide.
"Genocide has no political affiliation, and today both Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives stood together in unity to reject the atrocities that have beset those in the Sudan," Menendez said.
Fighting began in February 2003 when rebels from black African tribes took up arms, complaining of discrimination and oppression by Sudan's Arab-dominated government.
The government has been accused of unleashing Arab tribal militias against civilians in a campaign of murder, rape and arson. At least 180,000 people have died -- many from hunger and disease. More than 2 million have fled their homes, many to neighboring countries where stability has been threatened by Darfur's chaos.
Bush has called for the United Nations to take over peacekeeping in Darfur. But the United States has run into strong resistance in its bid for a Security Council resolution giving the U.N. immediate control over peacekeepers.
Objections from China, Russia and several African nations have forced the United States to strip out much of the most powerful language of the draft, possibly delaying the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers in the troubled Sudanese region.
And tribal leaders have rejected the possibility of U.N. peacekeepers replacing African Union forces in Darfur.
Obama called the additional funding a step in the right direction but said more work is needed to end the violence.
"My hope is that as we go forward, the administration and other nations will work together to push the Sudanese to admit a United Nations peacekeeping force," Obama said.
A U.N. Security Council delegation earlier this week wrapped up its Africa trip with a sense of urgency for finding ways to end the conflict. Members were warned during their final stop in Congo that all of central Africa could be destabilized by the fighting in Darfur.
"The situation is simple: if we don't act, people will die," said Brownback, one of the Senate's leading figures on Darfur.