The U.N. Security Council voted Tuesday to impose sanctions on four Sudanese accused of abuses in the Darfur conflict that has cost tens of thousands of lives and uprooted at least 2 million people.
The vote on a U.S.-drafted resolution was 12 to 0 with three abstentions — Russia, China and Qatar, the only Arab member of the 15-nation council.
The sanctions — a travel ban and a freeze on assets abroad — were the first adopted against individuals involved in the Darfur war. The measures were first authorized by the Security Council in March 2005 against those who thwart peace efforts, violate human rights or conduct military flights over Darfur.
The four men, whittled down from a longer British list, include one Sudanese air force commander, one pro-government militia member, and two rebel leaders.
Russia and China believe the sanctions could interfere with the 2-year-old Darfur peace talks between the Khartoum government and two rebels groups, conducted in Abuja, Nigeria.
“China does not believe that the time is right for adopting such a resolution,” said Wang Guangya, China’s U.N. ambassador.
He warned that the Security Council would have to bear the consequences if the conflict was prolonged as a result.
None of the four was involved in Abuja peace talks.
More names to be added
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said the resolution was just a “down payment” and would push for a longer list.
To ease the concerns of African nations, the Security Council also approved a Tanzanian-drafted statement supporting the peace talks. Africa Union mediators have set April 30 as a deadline for a new peace deal.
The statement “urges the parties to make speedy progress in concluding a Darfur peace accord.”
The Darfur conflict erupted in 2003 when mostly non-Arab tribes took up arms over land and water resources, accusing the Arab-dominated government of neglect.
In turn, the government is accused of arming mainly Arab militia, known as Janjaweed, who began a campaign of murder, rape, arson and plunder that drove more than 2 million villagers into squalid camps in Darfur and neighboring Chad.
Khartoum denies responsibility.
China exploits oil and supplies weapons to Sudan. But Wang contended earlier Beijing was consistent in opposing sanctions in general and not because of its economic interests.
Sponsoring the resolution were the United States, Britain, Argentina, Denmark, France, Japan, Peru and Slovakia.