The State Department says the "world is watching" to see Sudan's government fulfill promises made to Secretary State Colin Powell to ease the humanitarian crisis in the country's western Darfur region. Mr. Powell paid a dramatic visit to a displaced-persons camp in Darfur on Wednesday.
State Department officials say Sudanese leaders committed themselves to a "concrete action plan" for Darfur with a "very specific timetable," and that fulfillment of those commitments will affect, among other things, the future of a U.S.-sponsored draft U.N. Security Council resolution on the crisis.
Mr. Powell met Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir and other Sudanese officials and toured a displaced-persons camp in Darfur Wednesday in a 20-hour visit to Sudan that was the first by a U.S. secretary of state to that country since 1978.
Relations between the United States and Sudan's Islamic government have improved in recent years, propelled by anti-terrorism cooperation and progress toward resolving Sudan's long-running north-south civil war.
But progress toward normalization has stalled over Darfur, where U.S. officials say government-backed militias fighting local rebels have engaged in ethnic-cleansing tactics that have left a million black African villagers homeless, many of whom now face starvation.
Briefing reporters, Deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said that in "frank" discussions in Khartoum, Mr. Powell secured commitments from Sudanese officials to bring the "Janjaweed" militiamen under control, open the region to humanitarian aid and international monitoring and to engage in a political process to resolve the Darfur conflict.
The spokesman said Mr. Powell made clear that the United States intends "to remain engaged" on the issue and that in this regard the Bush administration is prepared to press ahead with its U.N. resolution that would subject the militias, and possibly also Sudanese leaders, to international sanctions.
"Obviously, there is a relationship between what happens on the Security Council and what happens in Sudan. So the world is watching," said Mr. Ereli.
The draft resolution, which U.S. diplomats began circulating this week, would ban the Sudanese and other governments from arming, equipping or training the Janjaweed.
It also calls for the travel ban on militia leaders and gives the Sudanese government 30 days to halt militia attacks and allow unfettered access to Darfur by relief workers.
If there is not compliance by that time, the measure says, sanctions would be applied to "any other individuals or groups" responsible for atrocities in Darfur.
U.S. officials say that language is designed to warn the Khartoum government that the United States may press the Security Council to penalize Sudanese leaders themselves if the Darfur situation worsens.
Sudanese officials have denied helping the militiamen and have downplayed the seriousness of the situation in Darfur.
But on Mr. Powell's departure from Sudan Wednesday, Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said the Khartoum government would "do its best" to enhance security and humanitarian access to Darfur.