Page last updated at 11:10 GMT, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

US to 'sound Darfur crisis alarm'

File photograph of displaced woman from Darfur in Sudan
The conflict in Darfur has dragged on for nearly six years

The next US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, says she intends to "sound the alarm" about the situation in the Sudanese region of Darfur.

President-elect Barack Obama would review US policy towards the area after he takes office next week, she said.

One option being considered was creating no-fly zones over Darfur.

The joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force (Unamid) had to be fully deployed to protect the refugees and to fend off militias, she added.

So far only half of the 26,000 troops authorised for the Unamid force have been sent to the remote region, the size of France.

The UN estimates that up to 2.7 million people have been forced from their homes in Darfur and some 300,000 have died during nearly six years of conflict.

"There is a great need for us to sound the alarm again about Darfur," Mrs Clinton said during a hearing at the US Senate to confirm her nomination as secretary of state.

"It is a terrible humanitarian crisis compounded by a corrupt and very cruel regime in Khartoum."

The International Criminal Court is widely expected to issue an arrest warrant soon for President Omar al-Bashir on charges that he masterminded a genocide in Darfur.

Sudan's government has always rejected charges that it armed the Janjaweed militias accused of widespread atrocities against civilians in the region.

The BBC's Amber Henshaw in Sudan says over the last few days, senior government officials have stepped up their criticisms of Britain, the US and France, who they accuse of conspiring against Sudan and manipulating the ICC.

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