The situation in Darfur is the world's most serious humanitarian crisis. The brutalities and the magnitude of the crisis -- 1 million displaced people and about 200,000 refugees in Chad -- demand the mobilization of the international community.

The humanitarian disaster in Darfur also could destabilize its neighbors, Chad and the Central African Republic, and threaten the peace process between Sudan's north and south. France decided early on to assist the threatened population and promote a political settlement.

In February, the French foreign minister went to Sudan and Chad to assess the crisis. Last month the secretary of state for foreign affairs, Renaud Muselier, went to Sudan. He found the situation in Darfur "beyond anything that words can describe."

France has called on the Sudanese authorities to do everything they can to stop the brutalities of the Janjaweed militias and urged them to allow unrestricted access to the humanitarian organizations in Darfur.

At the political level, France has played a key role along with the United States in bringing about negotiations on Darfur. These combined efforts and the involvement of Chad's president, Idriss Deby, led to a cease-fire April 8.

France's mobilization on Darfur also produced resolute action in the U.N. Security Council. France was instrumental in the adoption of a statement on May 25 and more recently in the adoption of Resolution 1547 on June 11.

Our commitment is absolute and based on a simple principle: Nothing can justify defenseless civilians being threatened. So I was shocked to read the June 20 editorial alleging that the existence of oil interests is driving France to be less than objective in the conflict in Darfur.

France's Total oil company holds only a single concession in Sudan. It is in the south, not Darfur. Total broke off oil prospecting when war resumed in 1983 and has no plans to resume operations until after a comprehensive peace agreement is signed.

The return to stability in Sudan will have beneficial consequences for all Sudanese and the whole of Africa. That is why France will keep working, in close consultation with the United States, to see peace restored.

JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE

Ambassador

Embassy of France

Washington