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Thousands Protest Darfur Crisis

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By JILL LAWLESS
The Associated Press
Sunday, April 29, 2007; 9:45 PM

LONDON -- Thousands of people protested outside Prime Minister Tony Blair's residence Sunday to demand decisive action against the violence in Darfur, holding up a 7-foot hourglass filled with artificial blood.

Protests were also held in the U.S., Israel and other countries on what campaigners designated a global day of action.

Protesters in London handed a letter to Gareth Thomas, a government minister with responsibility for international development, calling for the quick deployment of a strong peacekeeping force in Sudan's western region where a four-year war has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced more than 2.5 million.

The letter, addressed to Blair, urged the prime minister "to use your influence to push the international community to call for action."

"Time is running out for the people of Darfur, and we urge you to keep the pressure on the government of Sudan until there is an effective peacekeeping force on the ground protecting civilians," the letter said.

Protesters carried signs saying "time is up" and held small hourglasses, along with the giant one. Organizers said 3,500 people attended the rally. Police did not immediately have an estimate of the turnout.

The United States and Britain have been working on a proposal calling for sanctions against Sudan if it does not agree to the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers to help a beleaguered African Union force.

In Tel Aviv, Israelis lit candles during a demonstration. In Washington, actress Mia Farrow spoke to protesters in front of the White House, with a large sign reading "Peace and Protection Now" in the background.

As part of the campaign, celebrities including Farrow, Elton John, Mick Jagger and George Clooney issued a statement Sunday calling for an end to the bloodshed and accusing the international community of failing to act.

"We have come together to say that time is up," the statement said. "The international community must end its stalling and take decisive action."

Activists from across New England protested on Boston Common, a historic city park. Among the speakers were Darfur scholars and Massachusetts lawmakers pushing a bill that would require the state to divest from companies doing business in Sudan.

Last week, President Bush delivered a final warning to Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir that he must take concrete steps to halt bloodshed in Darfur or face tough new U.S. sanctions.

On Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that he and al-Bashir had agreed that a new United Nations-African Union joint peacekeeping force should be deployed in the region quickly.

Al-Bashir agreed in November to a three-phase U.N. plan to strengthen the African Union force, but has delayed allowing its implementation.

Ethnic African rebels, complaining of neglect by the Arab-dominated central government, have been fighting the Sudanese army and the pro-government janjaweed militia in Darfur for the past four years, turning the region into the world's largest humanitarian disaster.

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On the Net: http://www.globefordarfur.org


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© 2007 The Associated Press

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