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New Mexico Governor Heads To Sudan On Diplomatic Mission January 5, 2007

Posted by notapundit in US News, World News.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Thursday he is heading to Sudan on a diplomatic trip that would add to his extensive international experience as he prepares to announce whether he will run for president.

Richardson will try to meet with Sudanese officials and persuade them to accept a peacekeeping force in the war-torn Darfur region, according to a statement from his office.

He is to arrive Sunday after traveling overnight and plans to travel to Darfur.

Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, has rejected a U.N. Security Council resolution that provides for bolstering the poorly funded and equipped 7,000-troop African Union force to about 22,000 peacekeepers under U.N. leadership. The nonprofit Save Darfur Coalition requested Richardson’s help because of his long relationship with Bashir and is paying for the trip.

Richardson, a Democrat who was U.N. ambassador and energy secretary in the Clinton administration, would have one of the most impressive foreign policy resumes if he decides to run for president.

As a member of Congress in the 1980s and 1990s, Richardson was a special envoy on several international missions and won the release of Americans held in North Korea, Iraq, Cuba and Sudan.

Since being elected governor in 2002, Richardson has not stopped his international work. He has traveled repeatedly to North Korea, meeting last month with North Korean officials in Santa Fe, N.M., to discuss the communist country’s nuclear future.

In September, he traveled to Sudan and successfully negotiated with Bashir for the release of a captured U.S. journalist who had been held for more than a month on espionage charges.

For nearly four years, Sudanese troops and the Arab janjaweed have been fighting Darfur’s ethnic African rebels, who revolted against what they saw as decades of neglect and discrimination by the Khartoum government.

U.N. and African Union officials have accused the government of arming the janjaweed and coordinating attacks with them – a charge Khartoum denies. More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million driven from their homes.

Richardson also will push for a cease-fire, his office said.

Richardson coordinated his trip with Andrew Natsios, the Bush administration’s special envoy to Sudan, according to the governor’s office. Natsios did not respond to an interview request sent to the State Department.

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