Tue, Jul 27, 2004 - Page 7 News List

US, Europe warn Sudan that it's action or sanctions

REUTERS , Khartoum

A child gets checked for malnourishment at a refugee camp in Darfur, Sudan on Friday. The UN calls the Darfur conflict the world's worst humanitarian crisis.


The US and Europe on Sunday stepped up warnings of sanctions unless Sudan halts conflict in its Darfur region, and Australia said it was likely to contribute troops to any UN peacekeeping mission.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir told reporters in Khartoum his government was ready to cooperate with the African Union and the international community, but gave no details.

"The Sudanese people and their government are capable of reaching a solution to the problem in Darfur through constructive dialogue," Bashir said on what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Germany said Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and US Secretary of State Colin Powell agreed in telephone talks that "sanctions will be unavoidable if the (Khartoum) government does not meet its self-set commitments in Darfur."

Many countries have demanded that Khartoum disarm Arab militias accused of mounting a scorched-earth policy against black Africans that the US Congress has branded genocide. The UN says 30,000 people have been killed.

Germany and other European nations that opposed the US-led war on Iraq have found common cause with Washington over Darfur as television images show camps of destitute refugees, among the 1.5 million the UN says have been displaced by fighting.

A US-drafted resolution seeking to threaten oil-producing Sudan with sanctions remains stalled in the UN Security Council by China and Russia -- two of the five veto-wielding permanent members.

Sudan, Africa's largest country, has said it is improving security and aid distribution in Darfur.

The Netherlands, which holds the European Union's rotating presidency, said sanctions were not needed yet but the world would eventually impose them if Khartoum did not act.

"If the situation does not visibly improve, then sanctions will almost surely be brought by the international community," Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot said after talks with visiting Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Australia was likely to contribute a small number of troops to any UN peacekeeping mission.

"There's a good chance that we will send some troops to Sudan," Downer told a television station.

Britain has not ruled out taking part in a military intervention.

A statement distributed at a central Khartoum mosque called for attacks on any US or British troops sent to Darfur.

"We call upon you to speedily head toward Darfur and dig deep into the ground mass graves prepared for the crusader army," said the statement, purportedly from a previously unknown group calling itself Mohammed's Army.

Many observers said rebels in Darfur were obstructing peace efforts in the expectation that the plight of large numbers of refugees would force the international community to intervene.

Attempts to reach a political solution in Darfur stumbled last week when the two main rebel groups refused to take part in talks.

A key rebel demand is the disarmament of the Arab militias.

The rebels say the government armed the militias, a charge Khartoum denies, and both sides trade accusations of violating a ceasefire agreed in April.

"It is obvious that the rebels feel that if they agitate enough they can force the hand of the international community and bring about an intervention on the ground," said a Western observer in Khartoum who declined to be named.

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