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US Urges Restraint Following Genocide Charges


The United States is urging restraint by all parties in the Darfur conflict, following the International Criminal Court filing of genocide charges against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. The State Department says while the United States is not part of the ICC, it supports accountability for Darfur crimes. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

The prospect of ICC action against President Omar al-Bashir triggered anti-Western demonstrations in Khartoum Sunday, and the State Department is appealing for restraint and calm while saying that appropriate security steps have been taken at U.S. diplomatic posts in Sudan.

The United States has an embassy in Sudan run by a charge d'affaires and a small consulate in Juba, the administrative center of the semi-autonomous southern Sudan region.

In a talk with reporters, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack would not elaborate on any new security measures at the two posts, but noted that the Sudanese government, as a signatory of the Vienna conventions on diplomacy, has an obligation to protect foreign missions.

McCormack said U.S. officials will closely examine the charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes lodged against the Sudanese President by ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

While the United States is not a party to the ICC, the spokesman noted that the State Department, after a detailed study, deemed the violence in Darfur genocide in 2004.

He said the United States "stands firmly on the side of accountability" for Darfur crimes and considers the renewed attention on the issue positive:

"I think recognition of the humanitarian disaster, the atrocities that have gone on there, is a positive thing. The focus of the world should be on Darfur in trying to implement what the Security Council has constructed thus far as a solution to that," McCormack. "There is more political work that needs to be done, but in terms of addressing the immediate humanitarian concerns there is a plan in place to deploy U.N. peacekeepers, which could help reduce the level of violence there as well as help get in humanitarian assistance."

McCormack said the United States holds rebels in Darfur, as well as Khartoum authorities, responsible for the violence.

He noted that in line with a U.N. Security Council resolution in 2006, President Bush ordered U.S. sanctions against four key figures in the conflict, a former Sudanese regional military commander, a tribal chief of the government-backed Janjaweed militia, and two rebel commanders.

The Darfur conflict erupted in 2003 when local rebels took up arms against the Khartoum government, which responded by backing Arab Janjaweed militiamen in a scorched-earth campaign against civilians and rebels in the region.

At least 200,000 people have died in the conflict and an estimated 2.5 million others have been displaced.

The ICC was set up in 2002 as the world's first permanent war crimes court. Former President Bill Clinton signed the treaty setting up the ICC, but the Bush administration subsequently withdrew - contending the court had unrestricted powers that might lead to frivolous prosecution of U.S. troops abroad.

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