WASHINGTON (AFP) — US political grandees including former secretary of state Madeleine Albright announced Tuesday the launch of a new task force to help the United States prevent genocide and mass atrocities.
Co-chaired by Albright and former defense secretary William Cohen, the task force plans to issue a report in December 2008 to help the next US administration find diplomatic and military means to avert future genocides.
But at a news conference, Albright and Cohen were pressed on their stance today that Armenians were not victims of genocide under the Ottoman Empire, while Albright was also reminded of US inaction in Rwanda in 1994.
"Our challenge is to match words to deeds and stop allowing the unacceptable," said Albright, who was US ambassador to the United Nations in 1994 before becoming secretary of state under president Bill Clinton.
"We have a duty to find the answer before the vow of 'never again' is once again betrayed," she said.
The new task force includes retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, two ex-senators, former US cabinet members and other formerly high-ranking government officials now in the private sector.
Its executive director, former career diplomat Brandon Grove, said the team would look at five areas of action: early warning; pre-crisis engagement; preventive diplomacy; international institutions; and military intervention.
Albright has spoken of her regret that the Clinton administration and UN did not do more to avert the carnage against ethnic Tutsis in Rwanda, but said the task force would focus on a future template for action.
Citing ongoing events in Darfur, however, she said the impetus for the mission was "frustration: we all say this can't happen again and then in front of us, things are happening."
The US administration of President George W. Bush has described the mass slaughter taking place in the Sudanese region as "genocide," but stands criticized for not doing more to intervene.
Cohen, a Republican who was Pentagon chief in Clinton's second term, said: "Let's face it: Rwanda was not exactly a high mark in our country's history.
"We don't want to see that take place again in the future, so the goal of the task force is to set forth a document and a set of principles that can then be used by future policymakers," he said.
However, both Albright and Cohen were grilled on their credentials given that they recently signed letters urging Democrats in the House of Representatives against endorsing an Armenia "genocide" resolution.
Turkey had threatened reprisals affecting its "war on terror" cooperation with the United States if the resolution were upheld, and Cohen said that any Pentagon head would have to fret over the impact on US troops "in harm's way."
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