updated 7/24/2007 10:38:55 PM ET 2007-07-25T02:38:55

Britain and France dropped a threat of sanctions against Sudan in a proposed U.N. Security Council resolution that would authorize an expanded peacekeeping force in Darfur, according to a revised draft circulated Tuesday.

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said the co-sponsors toned down the language in the document to try to mollify African countries that had strongly opposed a previous draft.

But Sudan still rejected the softened resolution, saying it was “awful” and “ugly.”

The draft resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, calls for the deployment of a joint U.N.-African Union force of up to 26,000 to try to stop the fighting between ethnic African rebels and pro-government janjaweed militia that has killed more than 200,000 people since 2003.

The “hybrid” force would replace the poorly equipped and underfunded AU force of 7,000 now in Darfur.

'It's just awful'
The new text removes a threat that the council would take further measures, a reference to sanctions, if Sudan refuses to comply. It also drops a specific condemnation of Sudan for failing to ensure humanitarian aid is reaching refugees in the vast desert region.

“We’ve been listening, we’ve had discussions ... with the African members of the council,” Parry told reporters. “We changed the text quite considerably. The tonality has changed, certain provisions have been altered considerably, there’s less threatening language in there. It’s more of a conciliatory text.”

He said the new draft has the support of the three African members on the 15-seat council: South Africa, Ghana and Congo. Formal negotiations on the text would begin Wednesday, with hopes the Security Council could vote by the end of the month.

But Sudan’s U.N. ambassador, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad, blasted the document outside the Security Council chambers, saying it still contained “hostile language” and “insinuations.”

“It’s very ugly,” he said. “It’s just awful.”

No more negotiating?
Abdalhaleem said Sudan was not backing down from its commitment to allow the “hybrid” U.N.-AU force into Darfur. But he said his government has problems with the mandate of the force — specifically who will be in charge of the troops and how long they will remain in the country.

Parry said he and his French counterpart, Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, would sit down with Abdalhaleem to discuss his concerns.

“There is no wish on my part to be other than working in cooperation with the African Union and the government of Sudan,” he added.

But Andrew Natsios, the top U.S. envoy on Darfur, was more blunt, telling reporters Sudan’s government did not have any more room to negotiate.

“The Sudanese government should not have veto power over what happens,” he said. “They need to implement now what they agreed to do. Once this resolution is through, the Sudanese government needs to be accountable.”

China, which imports two-thirds of Sudan’s oil, has opposed harsh measures such as sanctions against Sudan over the Darfur conflict. It is one of the five permanent members of the Security Council that can veto resolutions.

China’s U.N. ambassador Wang Guangya said the new draft was a “good resolution.”

History of conflict
The conflict in Darfur began in February 2003 when ethnic African tribes rebelled against what they consider decades of neglect and discrimination by the Arab-dominated government. In May 2005, the government signed a peace agreement with one of the rebel groups, but the U.N. and international observers say violence continues.

The U.N. and Western governments have pressed Sudan since November to accept a U.N. plan for a joint force.

After stalling for months, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir agreed in April to a “heavy support package” to strengthen the AU force, including 3,000 U.N. troops, police and civilian personnel along with aircraft and other equipment.

The new draft states that the hybrid operation, to be called UNAMID, will have up to 19,555 military personnel, including 360 military observers and liaison officers, a civilian component including up to 3,772 international police, and 19 special police units with up to 2,660 officers.

The document calls for U.N. member states to make troop contributions within 30 days of the resolution’s adoption and says UNAMID should take command of the region from the AU force by the end of the year.

It also calls on the Sudanese government and all rebel groups to enter into peace negotiations.

“Without a political settlement, there will be no end to the Darfur crisis,” Natsios said. “That is the ultimate objective of all of this. The peacekeeping operation is a means to the end.”

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