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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 July, 2004, 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK
Darfur time is short, says Powell
US Secretary of State Colin Powell (left) with Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit
Powell and Egypt's Aboul Gheit discussed crises across the region
US Secretary of State Colin Powell's attempts to step up international pressure over the Darfur crisis have hit a stumbling block in Egypt.

Mr Powell was told in Cairo that Egypt objected to sanctions and wanted to give the Sudanese government more time to resolve the emergency in Darfur.

The US has drawn up a UN resolution threatening Sudan with sanctions unless it reins in Arab militia quickly.

Mr Powell also discussed Iraq and the Palestinians with his Egyptian hosts.

Mr Powell met Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the beginning of a regional tour that also takes in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

These people don't have that much time before disease and famine take tens of thousands of lives.
Colin Powell

Afterwards, at a joint press conference, Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit said he and Mr Powell talked about "continuing to extend a helping hand to the Sudanese government and the Sudanese people, and continuing to rely on diplomatic means".

He said Egypt felt the Sudanese government was trying to address the Darfur crisis, and should be given more time.

Mr Powell replied that taking too long to act could leave the tens of thousands of people fleeing ethnic strife in western Sudan at deadly risk.

"We should give the Sudanese government time to respond, but these people don't have that much time before disease and famine take tens of thousands of lives," he said.

Neither man mentioned how long Sudan might be given to act, but the draft resolution before the UN Security Council threatens unspecified sanctions if nothing is done within 30 days.

Hopes for progress

Mr Powell condemned Wednesday's huge car bombing in Iraq, and said he was still "holding to" plans for elections there in January, despite continuing violence.

The Egyptians told him they were not yet prepared to send troops to Iraq to help provide security.

On the Middle East, Mr Powell said he hoped Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's decision to hand over control of internal security services to his prime minister could lead to progress.

After dismissing the move on Tuesday, Mr Powell sounded more optimistic, saying: "We may have a moment of opportunity before us again if in fact Prime Minister [Ahmed] Qurei did come away... with the necessary authority to act."

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