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Security Council Toughens Sanctions on Warring Factions in Sudan

The U.N. Security Council has approved targeted sanctions against members of warring factions in Sudan's Darfur region. The Council faces another vote Wednesday on the controversial question of where to try Darfur war crimes suspects.

The U.S. sponsored measure was approved late Tuesday by a vote of 12 to nothing, with three members - China, Russia and Algeria - abstaining.

The resolution calls for limiting the flow of weapons into the conflict zone, and forbids the Khartoum government from offensive military flights over Darfur. It imposes sanctions, including a travel ban and assets freeze, on those responsible for atrocities in Darfur, or anyone breaking a ceasefire in the region.

After the vote, deputy U.S. Ambassador Stuart Holliday expressed hope that passage of the measure would contribute to ending what he called a "tragic chapter in Darfur's history." He referred in particular to efforts to limit the flow of arms to both government and rebel forces.

"What we've done is establish an arms embargo that extends to the government of Sudan. Previously we had an arms embargo on non-state actors in Darfur, so we're taking a comprehensive look at any arms that come into Darfur. If the government of Sudan would like to come into Darfur for any purpose, any military purpose, it has to get the permission of the Security Council," he said.

After the vote, Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Elfatih Mohamed Erwa called the measure "unwise", and said penalizing his government would make matters worse by encouraging rebels to keep up the fight. He spoke through an interpreter. "The other side is waiting for the stick to be used by this council so it can continue what it has been doing, but the more sticks you bring to solve this problem, you are not going to solve this problem. You will make it more complicated, as a matter of fact," he said.

Passage of the sanctions resolution was part two of a compromise that broke weeks of Council deadlock over Sudan. The easy part, approving a 10-thousand strong peacekeeping force for southern Sudan, was approved unanimously last Friday.

The sanctions measure was approved only after veto-wielding Council members Russia and China agreed to abstain. Both are strongly opposed to penalties against the Khartoum government.

Part three of the compromise, on the controversial issue of where to try Darfur war crimes suspects, is scheduled for a vote Wednesday. A French-sponsored measure would send the accused to the newly-established International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The move has the support of at least nine Council members who are signatories to the court, but is strongly opposed by the United States, which is not a party to the ICC and has in the past threatened a veto.

Washington, along with several African countries, wants the cases referred to a new U.N./African Union tribunal in Tanzania.