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US Criticizes UN Assembly for Inaction on Sudan


Washington's ambassador to the United Nations has sharply criticized the world body for failing to condemn human rights violations in Sudan. A visibly upset Ambassador John Danforth expressed dismay Tuesday that U.N. diplomats would refuse to pass a measure denouncing abuses in Sudan. "I can't comprehend why the General Assembly would not take a very strong position on the issue of human rights abuses in Sudan," he said. "I can't comprehend why the General Assembly would not take a very strong position supporting cooperation with the Commission the Secretary General has set up to investigate whether or not there's genocide. I don't understand it."

Ambassador Danforth's comments came after he learned the General Assembly's human rights committee, made up of all 191 member states, intends to file a "no action" motion on a resolution directed at Sudan. A vote is due Wednesday.

The U.S. ambassador described the move as condoning inaction. "It is really important for the world community to speak strongly and to speak with one voice," he said. "Clearly, the General Assembly is not prepared to do that. It is not prepared to speak strongly; it is not prepared to speak with the same voice that the Security Council has spoken with in passing two resolutions with respect to Darfur and supporting what we did in Nairobi last week. So to me it's too bad."

The U.S. ambassador previously served as President Bush's special envoy to Sudan. He led the Security Council to Nairobi last week to pressure Sudan's warring factions to reach a peace agreement.

During the Nairobi visit, Council diplomats witnessed representatives of the Khartoum government and southern rebels signing a pledge to settle their differences by the end of the year.

Afterward, diplomats expressed cautious optimism that the Council's pressure might end Africa's longest-running civil war.

But after hearing of the human rights committee's intentions, a clearly exasperated Ambassador Danforth suggested a "no action" motion would undermine all that effort. He said it calls into question the rationale for the world body's existence. "One wonders about the utility of the General Assembly on days like this," he said. "One wonders if there can't be a clear and direct statement on matters of basic principle, why have this building? What is it all about? This to me is a very bad situation."

Opposition to condemning Sudan has come mainly from Arab and African countries. Algeria's Ambassador Abdallah Baali said the no-action motion indicates a feeling in the developing world that Western countries use rights issues for political purposes that have little to do with human rights.

The United Nations estimates that 70,000 people have died and more and one and a half million have been forced from their homes over the past 19 months in Darfur.

U.N. officials call it the world's worst humanitarian crisis; the United States has labeled it genocide, and called on Sudan's government to control Arab militias terrorizing black African villagers in the region.

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