WASHINGTON Sen. Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday she would focus on the Darfur crisis as top U.S. diplomat and the Obama administration was looking at options including the creation of no-fly zones.
"There is a great need for us to sound the alarm again about Darfur. It is a terrible humanitarian crisis compounded by a corrupt and very cruel regime in Khartoum," Clinton said at a Senate hearing to confirm her nomination as secretary of state.
She said the incoming Obama administration was reviewing U.S. policy toward Darfur and the UN/African Union force must be fully deployed.
"We have spoken about other options, no-fly zones, other sanctions and sanctuaries, looking to deploy the UN/AU force to try to protect the refugees but also to repel the militias," she said.
"There is a lot under consideration," she added.
Foreign policy experts say 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million driven from their homes in five years of fighting between rebels and the army and government-backed militias. Khartoum accuses the Western media of exaggerating the death toll.
The deployment of a joint UN/AU peacekeeping force is behind schedule and Darfur activists have been pushing the new administration to do more to get those troops on the ground and look at fresh ideas to stop the violence.
Clinton has said on several occasions she wanted to see a NATO "no-fly" zone over Darfur to support peacekeepers against militias.
Jerry Fowler, president of the Save Darfur Coalition, an advocacy group, said there was no time to spare in acting to end the violence in western Sudan and facilitate a lasting peace there.
"Secretary-designate Clinton and the new administration must be prepared to lead on ending the genocide starting next Tuesday and not a day later," said Fowler.
(Reporting by Sue Pleming; Editing by Xavier Briand)