U.S. softens push for Sudan sanctions

/ Source: The Associated Press

The United States softened the threat of possible oil sanctions against Sudan on Tuesday to try to get Security Council approval for a resolution pressuring Khartoum to rein in Arab militias accused of attacking, raping and looting civilians in western Darfur.

The revised U.S. resolution, circulated to council members and obtained by The Associated Press, still raises the possibility of punitive diplomatic and economic measures against Sudan, singling out its oil industry, if the government doesn’t act quickly against the militias, known as the Janjaweed.

The original U.S. resolution introduced last week — which China threatened to veto — declared that the Security Council “will take further actions” against the government if it doesn’t comply with U.N. resolutions. The revised text declares that the council “shall consider taking additional measures.”

The new draft still states that the Sudanese government could face penalties if it fails to fully implement a U.N. resolution demanding that it quickly stop attacks and start disarming nomadic Arab tribes accused of killing thousands in rampages on African farm villages.

It welcomes the African Union’s intention to beef up its monitoring force in Darfur — and the Sudanese government’s Sept. 9 letter to the Security Council confirming Khartoum’s willingness to accept a larger force. The draft declares that the council will also consider punitive measures, including oil sanctions, if Khartoum fails “to cooperate fully with the expansion and extension of the African Union monitoring force in Darfur.”

U.S. Ambassador John Danforth told reporters the new text is “pretty close” to the original and the United States hopes for a vote by the end of the week.

“What we have to do on an accelerated basis is to maximize the African Union presence,” he said. “I’m for action now. Action is getting the AU in there and having sufficient funds for the relief of these desperate people — that’s action.”

China, Pakistan and Algeria objected to the original draft’s threat of sanctions and call for a U.N.-appointed panel to investigate whether genocide was being carried out against black Africans by Arab militias that Washington says are backed by Sudan’s government. That request remains in the new text, with slightly softer language.

China’s U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said he hadn’t seen the revised draft but he made clear that Beijing would have problems with any threat of sanctions or genocide investigation that would push aside Sudan’s sovereign government.

“I think that any use of the means of sanctions, or the threat of sanctions, is difficult for my government,” Wang said. “I don’t think that sanctions will be helpful under the present circumstances.”

“We need to have a good recipe, or good prescription, which will help the patients, not to kill the patients,” Wang said.

The new draft adds language recognizing the Sudanese government’s efforts to ease the delivery of humanitarian aid and calls on all armed groups, including rebel forces, to stop all violence and cooperate with AU monitors.

The original resolution “demands” that the government cease all military flights over Darfur, as required in an April cease-fire resolution. The revised draft “calls on the government of Sudan to cease all military flights in and over the Darfur region.”

The new draft calls on the government to end the climate of impunity in Darfur by identifying and bringing to justice all those responsible “including members of popular defense forces and Janjaweed militias ... and insists that the government of Sudan take all appropriate steps to stop all violence and atrocities.”

The United Nations says the 19-month conflict has killed over 30,000 people and driven more than 1.2 million from their homes.

The African Union has about 80 military observers in Darfur, protected by just over 300 soldiers. U.N. envoy Jan Pronk beseeched Sudan last week to allow more than 3,000 troops into the region for an expanded monitoring mission that would actively try to prevent violence and stop the conflict from escalating.