Thursday, July 22, 2004

UN sanctions for Sudan 'unlikely'

United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan says Sudan has made little progress in curbing marauding militias in the Darfur region but diplomats said sanctions against Khartoum were unlikely.

Mr Annan spoke as his special representative in Khartoum, Dutchman Jan Pronk, briefed the 15-member Security Council on reports that Arab militia, called Janjaweed, were continuing to terrorise African villagers in Sudan's west.

The 15-month conflict has killed up to 30,000 people, forced villagers into concentration-camp type compounds and left two million people without enough food and medicine.

"There have been encouraging steps on the humanitarian front," Mr Annan said at a news conference.

"But there has been little progress on human rights and I regret to say there are continuing reports of attacks by the Janjaweed militia."

Sudan, in an agreement with Mr Annan two weeks ago, pledged to protect displaced civilians, disarm the Janjaweed and other armed groups, suspend visa and travel restrictions on relief workers, and allow African Union human rights monitors and punish those responsible for atrocities.

Mr Pronk, who has helped organise a monitoring system for Darfur, was blunt, saying there was "no progress whatsoever as far as the security of the people themselves is concerned".

Mr Annan said he could not predict how long Sudan would have before the UN Security Council took concrete action.

"It's going to be a judgment call rather than an artificial deadline but the urgency is there and the Sudanese Government doesn't have forever," he said.

No military intervention

One problem is strong lobbying by the Arab League and others against any kind of sanctions or military intervention.

The United States has had difficulty getting a resolution adopted that would threaten a travel and arms ban within a month if Sudan did not comply.

British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, who along with Germany and France, wants an immediate arms embargo on Sudan, said the council was not yet considering sanctions.

Diplomats said Russia, China, Pakistan and others were opposed to even a weapons embargo.

Even if any country, like the United States, were willing to send troops to protect civilians and disburse food and medicine, like it did in Somalia in late 1992, the war in Iraq would make approval doubtful.

"We are still dealing with Iraq. We are not out of Iraq yet," Mr Annan said.

"Any discussion of intervention in Sudan would be looked at very carefully by governments and I am not sure how quickly and how enthusiastically one would get support for that initiative. We have to be very clear on that," Mr Annan said.

So far Sudan has sent 3,000 police to Darfur, allowed in monitors and eased most restrictions on aid groups.

Khartoum is known to have used its planes and helicopters to help the Janjaweed and rights groups fear it is integrating the militia into the police.

Mr Annan said Sudan had been warned not to do that.

"It is a 'no-no' for them to induct Janjaweed into the police force."

By In Solidarity 22 July 04


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