Fri, Jul 02, 2004 - Page 6 News List

US seeks bans against Sudan militias

EMBARGO PROPOSED Humanitarian groups accuse the government of backing the Janjaweed fighters during the 15-month conflict which has killed around 30,000 people


Sudanese children wait for the arrival of US Secretary of State Colin Powell at the Abu Shouk refugee camp in Darfur on Wednesday. Around 30,000 people have died in Darfur and more than a million have been driven from their homes since a revolt against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum broke out among indigenous ethnic minorities last year.


The US called for UN sanctions on Arab militias in western Sudan whose attacks have sparked a humanitarian crisis and indicated it may seek penalties against Sudan's government if it doesn't stop the conflict.

A UN draft resolution circulating on Wednesday would require the Security Council to decide after 30 days whether an arms embargo and travel ban against the militias should be extended "to any other individuals or groups responsible for the commission of atrocities in Darfur."

The US and humanitarian groups accuse the government of backing the militias, known as the Janjaweed, during the 15-month conflict that has killed up to 30,000 people, forced over one million to flee their homes, and left 2.2 million in desperate need of food and medicine.

The fighting began when two groups drawn from Darfur's African tribes took up arms in February last year over what they regard as unjust treatment by the government in their struggle over land and resources with Arab countrymen.

Some human rights groups have accused the Janjaweed of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

But a resolution even hinting at sanctions against Sudan -- which denies backing the Janjaweed -- could face opposition from Arab and Islamic countries on the Security Council.

The Sudanese government signed a cease-fire agreement April 8 and the UN draft urges that it be implemented "without delay." The agreement calls for negotiations to end the conflict, disarming the militia raiders who have razed hundreds of villages, and lifting restrictions on access for relief workers.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and UN Secretary of State Colin Powell teamed up in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, on Wednesday to pressure the government to fulfill these promises.

Philippines UN Ambassador Lauro Baja, the current Security Council president, said the release of the UN draft was clearly timed to the high-powered visit. He said the resolution should send "a strong signal to the government" that it needs to take action.

In Washington, UN State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said on Wednesday that the resolution was "part of a tapestry of diplomatic action" to get the Sudan to fulfill its commitments.

The UN draft would authorize an arms embargo and a ban on military training for the Janjaweed. It would also impose a travel ban on Janjaweed militia members whose names are on a list that would be compiled by a new Security Council committee that would monitor the sanctions.

The proposed resolution also calls on the Sudanese government "to cease all military attacks in Darfur, disarm and neutralize the Janjaweed militias ... protect civilians ... cooperate fully with all humanitarian relief organizations and provide them unrestricted and sustained access for the provision of humanitarian relief."

The UN draft endorses the deployment of monitors from the African Union to Darfur and asks Annan to send UN human rights monitors as well, and "to consider what other measures may be needed to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe."

UN deputy ambassador Stuart Holliday said the 30-day review is needed because the rainy season, which has just begun, is expected to lead to higher mortality rates, peaking at the end of the year, and "time is so critical."

But Security Council members said they want to hear from Annan before considering a new resolution.

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