U.S. - U.N. sanctions coming if Sudan doesn't rein in militias

Friday, July 23, 2004

UNITED NATIONS -- Secretary of State Colin Powell urged Sudan to disarm Arab militias in the African country's western Darfur region, threatening sanctions if it doesn't move quickly and dismissing the government's accusation of meddling.

Both Powell and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed that Sudan can end the 15-month conflict, which has killed up to 30,000 people, forced more than 1 million to flee their homes and left 2.2 million in desperate need of food and medicine.

Annan and Powell met hours after the United States circulated a revised draft U.N. resolution that would threaten sanctions against Sudan if it doesn't make significant progress in arresting marauding Janjaweed militias within 30 days. The draft also calls for an arms embargo on Darfur, which would apply to individuals, groups or governments that supply militias or rebel groups.

The original U.S. resolution of June 30 called for an arms embargo and travel ban on the militias, but did not call for action against the government.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Washington wanted to strengthen its original resolution to "put teeth" behind a U.N. agreement with the Sudanese government on July 3. Sudan promised Annan in that agreement it would rein in the Janjaweed militiamen, but Annan's representative in Sudan, Jan Pronk, said the government has made "no progress whatsoever."

"It is the responsibility of all nations through our collective voice at the U.N. as well as individually to speak to the Sudanese government in very direct terms about the fact that tens of thousands of their citizens have been killed and many tens of thousands more will die if we do not act now," Powell said at a news conference with Annan.

The United States and humanitarian groups accuse the Sudanese government of backing the Janjaweed; Khartoum denies any involvement.

The fighting began when two groups drawn from Darfur's African tribes took up arms over what they regard as unjust treatment by the government in their struggle over land and resources with Arab countrymen. The Janjaweed began attacking the black Africans; some human rights groups have accused them of ethnic cleansing and genocide, though Pronk warned against "premature labeling of the conflict."

Before the new draft was released, Sudan's Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail accused the United States and Britain of meddling in the crisis, saying their increased pressure was the same tactic they used against Iraq. He warned against any international intervention and told a news conference in Paris that threatening Sudan with sanctions would only complicate matters.

"One person's meddling is another person's attempt to save people who are in desperate trouble," Powell retorted, adding that "there is a humanitarian catastrophe at hand."

Annan said he told the Sudanese "if they do the right thing, if they protect their population and bring the situation under control, nobody would meddle and they would come under no pressure, so the solution is really in their hands if they think the outside world is meddling."

Many Security Council ambassadors called the latest U.S. draft a good basis for discussion. They included France, China, Algeria, Brazil, Germany and Pakistan.

Both Powell and Annan said they believe it has more support than the first draft did.

There is no outright opposition to the draft, but several council members, including Pakistan, Russia and China, had called for Sudan to be given sufficient time to meet its commitments under the July 3 agreement, and appeared reluctant even to threaten sanctions.

"It's a basis on which we can work and we hope it will lead to a consensus as soon as possible," Pakistan's U.N. Ambassador Munir Akram told The Associated Press. "We have to see what is the approach to sanctions, exactly what we should do now, and what we should threaten now, and what we should keep in our pocket for later."

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