Annan Urges Greater UN Action in Darfur

NEW YORK (AP) -- Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan questioned whether all countries on the Security Council have lived up to their responsibility to protect civilians in Darfur from atrocities.

Annan said there was "quite a bit of hypocrisy on all sides" in trying to resolve the five-year conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, especially in encouraging the African Union to take on peacekeeping without sufficient resources.

The overwhelmed AU force struggled for years to stem the bloodshed in Darfur until it was replaced by a joint AU-UN force that began deploying in January after months of wrangling with the Sudanese government.

The new force is authorized to have 26,000 troops and police but only a fraction are on the ground. Annan criticized well-equipped countries for refusing to provide essential helicopters for the mission despite repeated appeals from the U.N.

At a dinner in his honor on Thursday, Annan said U.N. member states had placed the duty to protect civilians threatened by genocide or war crimes in the hands of the members of the Security Council.

"It is fair to question whether all of them have yet fully lived up to that responsibility - notably in Darfur," Annan said.

He did not single out any countries on the council, which unanimously passed a resolution authorizing a joint AU-U.N. force last year.

China and Russia, two of the five permanent members of the council, have been reluctant to impose new sanctions on the Sudanese government, which has been accused of atrocities in a conflict that has left more than 200,000 people dead and displaced 2.5 million.

Recently Russia proposed sanctioning the ethnic African rebels fighting the Arab-dominated government. But the other three permanent council members - the United States, Britain and France - have stressed that Sudan's leaders must also be targeted.

The Security Council adopted a resolution in March 2005 authorizing an asset freeze and travel ban on individuals who defy peace efforts, violate international human rights law, or are responsible for military overflights in Darfur. The council has also imposed an arms embargo against the government and rebels.

As secretary-general, Annan promoted the concept of an international "responsibility to protect" those caught in conflict that was adopted by world leaders at a 2005 summit. He also played a key role in the establishment of the International Criminal Court, the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal.

Annan spoke at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where he received the first MacArthur Award for International Justice from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation at a dinner attended by 1,200 people.

Earlier in the day at wide-ranging round-table with journalists, Annan warned that military action against Iran would be "a real disaster" and the whole region could explode if the world community does not handle the many conflicts there carefully.

He said he did not have enough information to determine whether Iran's nuclear program is peaceful - as Tehran maintains.

But he said he had told the Iranians that if they had nothing to hide they should allow U.N. inspectors to go anywhere and reassure the world "that you have no intention of producing nuclear weapons."

The Iranian nuclear issue should be resolved through dialogue, he said.

"We cannot, I'm sure, take on another military action in Iran, and I hope no one is contemplating it. It would be a real disaster," Annan stressed.

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