U.S. Readying Plan for Darfur, President Says

By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 1, 2006

PERRY, Ga., Oct. 31 -- President Bush vowed Tuesday to address the growing humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan, where the government has resisted a United Nations proposal to deploy a 21,000-person peace-keeping force to end the violence.

Speaking to reporters at the White House after meeting with his special envoy to Sudan, Andrew S. Natsios, Bush said his administration is working on a proposal that he hopes will stop the bloodshed in the region. The conflict has claimed as many as 450,000 lives and displaced 2 million people since 2003.

"The United States is going to work with the international community to come up with a single plan on how to address this issue and save lives," Bush said. "And Andrew is going to work with other partners in peace, and they'll take that plan to the current government of Sudan."

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has denounced the idea of deploying a U.N. force, calling it an intrusion into the internal affairs of his oil-rich country.

His opposition has stalled intervention in the region, where the United States and a range of human rights groups say genocide is taking place. Many aid groups accuse the Sudanese government of allowing Arab militiamen to violently quell a rebellion by ethnic African tribes that began nearly four years ago in Darfur, an area the size of France.

Bush said Natsios delivered "a grim report" about the conditions he witnessed during a recent visit to Sudan.

"There needs to be a credible and effective international force to go into Darfur to save lives, to make it clear that the international community respects human life, and the international community will work in concert to save human life," Bush said, adding that the Sudanese government "must understand that we're serious."

Later in the day, Bush traveled to central Georgia, where he spearheaded a raucous rally at an arena here for former representative Mac Collins, the Republican trying to unseat Democrat Jim Marshall in a recently reconfigured congressional district.

Sharpening his rhetoric with just a week to go before the Nov. 7 midterm elections, Bush lashed out at Democrats. He said they would seek to raise taxes and surrender in Iraq if they were to assume power in the House or Senate, as many analysts predict they will.

"The only thing they want to do is leave before the job is done," Bush said, as about 6,000 supporters cheered. " . . . You can't win a war if you're not willing to fight it."

Bush also criticized Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), for his comments Monday night suggesting that those who do poorly in school would end up "stuck in Iraq."

"The senator's suggestion that the men and women of our military are somehow uneducated is insulting and it is shameful," Bush said. "The members of the United States military are plenty smart, and they are plenty brave, and the senator from Massachusetts owes them an apology."

Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, said his comments were not intended as an insult to the troops in Iraq but were meant as an indictment of the Bush administration for not learning the lessons of history.

The stop in Georgia marked Bush's second campaign appearance in the state in two days. On Monday, he campaigned for former congressman Max Burns, who is challenging Democratic Rep. John Barrow. The Georgia candidates are a rare commodity this year: Republicans who are threatening to unseat incumbent Democrats.

National polls have found that Americans are wearying of the war in Iraq, growing anxious about their economic future and are generally tired of Republican control of Congress. But the GOP partisans who attended the rally here clearly felt otherwise.

"The biggest thing that I'm afraid of is that the Democrats will take power," said Preston Evans, an auctioneer, as his wife, Lauretta, nodded in agreement.

Picking up her husband's point, Lauretta Evans, a retired teacher, said: "We'd see an increase in taxes and weaker national defense. Plus, there would be a redistribution of income. Big-time."

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