Kofi Annan's warning ["Annan Calls for Stronger U.N. Role," news story, Sept. 21] to the U.N. Security Council to act more decisively in the brutal civil wars that define too much of the world was disingenuous, because his list did not include the longest and most destructive of these wars--that in Sudan. The conflict has seen 2 million people, most of them civilians, perish. The country's 5 million refugees make this problem alone the greatest of its kind in the world.

But Security Council action to force the Khartoum regime to negotiate with the rebel factions is unlikely. Any proposal would run into intransigent resistance from China, a permanent member of the council and Sudan's largest economic partner. Indeed, China now has become deeply dependent on the prospects of Sudanese oil and has promised to veto any criticism of Sudan's abysmal human rights record and to shield Khartoum from economic sanctions. Mr. Annan's failure to cite Sudan in his list seemingly grows out of a desire not to offend China.

As Mr. Annan suggests, the Clinton administration was shamefully acquiescent on the Rwandan genocide in 1994, but so was Mr. Annan himself, then head of U.N. peacekeeping.

And both again are silent accomplices to the humanitarian crisis in Sudan, and the most destructive civil war in the world today.


Northampton, Mass.