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(photo credit: AP)
The leaders of France and Britain said Friday that they would be prepared to go to Darfur to push for peace, and will together lobby the UN Security Council to act.
"People are dying and people are suffering. It must stop," said French President Nicolas Sarkozy at a news conference with Gordon Brown, the new British prime minister, following their first meeting since both took office.
Brown said France and Britain will push for a UN resolution to dispatch African Union and United Nations peacekeepers to the area. Brown added that he and Sarkozy will send their foreign ministers to New York to push for UN action "with the greatest speed."
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"We hope that that resolution will pass quickly," he said. "Once the United Nations resolution is passed, we are prepared to go together to Darfur to make sure that the peace process is moving forward," said Brown.
Sarkozy said such a trip could take them both to Sudan and the Darfur region, as well as to neighboring Chad.
Brown called the situation in the western Sudanese region a "great humanitarian disaster."
He said Britain and France will push for an immediate cease-fire in Darfur and are prepared to provide "substantial" economic aid "as soon as a cease-fire makes it possible."
If no action is taken, however, "we will be prepared to consider as individual countries a toughening up of sanctions" against the Sudanese regime, he added.
The four-year conflict between ethnic African rebels and pro-Sudanese government janjaweed militia in Darfur has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced 2.5 million.
A 7,000-member African Union force has been unable to stop the fighting there. The conflict has spilled into the Central African Republic as well as Chad. Both have also faced attacks from rebels in their own countries.
The UN Security Council is considering a 26,000-strong "hybrid" African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force for Darfur.