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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

France Calls for Darfur Peacekeepers

PARIS -- France pressed Monday for international financing of a new, enlarged peacekeeping force for Darfur, and decried the world's inactivity on the crisis there. "Silence is killing," said President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"The lack of decision and the lack of action is unacceptable," Sarkozy told delegates from two dozen countries and international organizations that his government gathered in Paris to try to push forward peace efforts for the ravaged Sudanese region.

Conference attendee China, viewed as a power broker in Sudan, again came out against sanctions and argued against appeals by some critics for a boycott of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games to force China to get tough with Khartoum.

"Now is not the time to talk about further sanctions," said China's special envoy for Sudan, Liu Giujin. He said any attempted link to the Beijing Olympics was "really unfounded. The basic character of the Olympics is nonpolitical."

Asked by reporters whether the Chinese oil industry's involvement in Sudan kept Beijing from coming down hard, Liu said: "That's baseless, that's unfounded."

A French priority was finding funding for the new African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force that Sudan agreed to this month, under much international pressure. Sarkozy's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the soldiers need payment.

"There are already [African Union] soldiers in Darfur. But these soldiers are badly equipped, they are not paid. We are not going to make progress by increasing the number of soldiers who are unpaid," he said.

Sarkozy pledged an additional 10 million euros ($13.4 million) to the existing -- and cash-strapped -- African Union force. His five-week-old government has made the four-year conflict in Darfur a priority. Spain also pledged 10 million euros, with half for the hybrid force and the rest for humanitarian aid. The EU's development chief, Louis Michel, said it was preparing 31 million ($40 million) in additional humanitarian aid.

Sudan was not invited to the one-day conference, attended by 18 countries, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the European Union and others. Officials from the Sudanese government in Khartoum have said Monday's conference could backfire and cause more harm than good.

Sarkozy praised Sudan for agreeing to the new hybrid force but insisted, "We must be firm toward belligerents who refuse to join the negotiating table."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday night that the international community has fallen down on the job in Darfur.

"I have seen firsthand the devastation and the difficult circumstances in which people live in Darfur, and I will be very frank," Rice said after meeting Kouchner in Paris. "I do not think that the international community has really lived up to its responsibilities there."

Rice welcomed the fresh energy France's new conservative-led leadership has put to the Darfur cause. She and Sarkozy met Tuesday morning, their first face-to-face talks since Sarkozy took over last month from Jacques Chirac, who often had prickly relations with the United States.

French officials said they hope to mobilize the international community at what they called a "pivotal moment."