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US Asks for International Commission to Investigate Darfur Genocide Claims - 2004-09-10


The United States has asked the U.N. Security Council to authorize an international investigation into charges of genocide in Sudan. A U.S. sponsored resolution threatens sanctions against Sudan's oil industry if the Khartoum government fails to stem violence in the Darfur region. The measure is encountering stiff opposition.

U.S. diplomats formally introduced the resolution at a closed-door Council meeting. The move came hours after Secretary of State Colin Powell declared that genocide had occurred in Darfur.

Following the meeting, Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Danforth acknowledged that the current draft would have to be revised to accommodate the objections of some members. But he vowed that controversial provisions, including the threat of sanctions against Sudan's lucrative oil industry, were not-negotiable. "Nobody wants to impose sanctions for the pleasure of imposing sanctions, that's ridiculous. But the government of Sudan must act in an appropriate way to save the lives of these people, and if they don't, if they just sort of go through a long delaying dance there has to be possibility of taking action they will notice," he said.

China's ambassador, Wang Guangya, expressed strong objection to several provisions, including the call for an international commission to rule on the genocide charges. He said China would veto the measure unless substantial changes were made. "As the draft stands right now, we cannot accept it. [It would mean a veto] if they put it for a vote," he said.

U.S. Ambassador Danforth reacted sharply to suggestions of a veto. "Any of the five permanent members of the Security Council can veto it, and whoever does would have to explain the continuing tragedy of Darfur. I can't explain that for them," he said. "If anyone wants to take that kind of responsibility, stepping back and letting people die and be shot down by helicopters and be raped. I don't see how that can be explained."

The resolution has powerful support. Britain and France have signed on as co-sponsors. But at least three other members, Russia, Pakistan and Algeria, have joined China in opposition. Algeria's Ambassador Abdallah Baali says sanctions are likely to inflame passions and complicate efforts to stop the violence in Darfur. "We definitely favor a peaceful approach. We would like to keep the government of Sudan engaged, and to ensure its full cooperation, and that's why we don't think coercive measures help in this particular context," he said.

Pakistan's Ambassador Munir Akram also questioned the value of sanctions. He described several provisions of the resolution as "difficult", especially the language calling for a commission of inquiry into charges of genocide. "Genocide is a particularly grave situation of human rights violations. We would be able to support an investigation into human rights violations and make a determination on the basis of that, and we wonder if threats of sanctions or similar penal actions will evoke the desired response from the government of Sudan," he said.

Diplomats say negotiations aimed at drawing up a compromise will begin Friday. U.S. Ambassador Danforth expressed confidence that a final draft would be ready for a Security Council vote sometime next week.

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