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Page last updated at 18:18 GMT, Wednesday, 28 May 2008 19:18 UK

US candidates appeal over Darfur

File photo of a displaced Sudanese boy in August 2007
More than 2 million people have been displaced by the Darfur conflict

The three main US presidential candidates have made a rare joint statement, appealing for an end to the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region.

Democratic candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and Republican candidate John McCain said the violence was "unacceptable".

The candidates pledged to pursue peace with "unstinting resolve" if elected.

Since the conflict began five years ago, the UN estimates that some 300,000 have died and 2m have fled their homes.

The candidates said the Sudanese government was "chiefly responsible" for the violence.

Khartoum has always denied any links to the Janjaweed Arab militia, who have been accused of war crimes against civilians in Darfur.

"After more than five years of genocide, the Sudanese government and its proxies continue to commit atrocities against civilians in Darfur," said the statement.

"This is unacceptable to the American people and to the world community."

The UN has stopped short of calling the violence in Darfur genocide.

'Barriers'

Excerpts of the statement were published in an advert in the New York Times by the SaveDarfur Coalition.

The candidates blamed the Sudanese government for what they called "consistent efforts to undermine peace and security".

This included putting up "multiple barriers" to the deployment of a peacekeeping force from the UN and the African Union, they said.

There are just 9,000 troops of a planned 26,000-strong UN-African Union peace force in the region.

"If peace and security for the people of Sudan are not in place when one of us is inaugurated as president on January 20, 2009, we pledge that the next administration will pursue these goals with unstinting resolve," the joint statement said.

The candidates also said the government had failed to stick to the terms of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended two decades of civil war between north and south - a separate conflict to that in Darfur.

The violence in Darfur began in 2003 when rebel groups complaining of discrimination against black Africans began attacking government targets.

The government admits mobilising "self-defence militias" following rebel attacks but denies any links to the Janjaweed, accused of trying to "cleanse" black Africans from Darfur.


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