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UN Chief Urges Security Council Vote on Sudan Sanctions - 2004-09-17

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is urging the Security Council to urgently adopt a U.S. drafted resolution on Sudan. The council may hold a rare Saturday session to vote on the measure.

As consultations on a Sudan resolution dragged into their second week, and amid news that 10 thousand people a month are dying in Darfur, Secretary-General Annan urged the Security Council to act. He called for immediate adoption of a measure that threatens sanctions against Sudan's oil industry, and orders the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into charges that pro-government Sudanese Arab militia are committing genocide against black African villagers.

"No matter how the crimes that are being committed against civilians in Darfur are characterized or legally defined, it is urgent to take action now. Civilians are still being attacked and fleeing their villages even as we speak, many months after the Government committed itself to bring the militias under control," he said.

Mr. Annan said he has ordered two top U.N. officials dealing with human rights and genocide to leave for Sudan immediately. He said their mission is to see what can be done to stop further abuses in Darfur. They are to arrive in Khartoum Saturday.

The Secretary-General's endorsement seemed to propel the Security Council toward action. U.S. Ambassador John Danforth, who has guided the resolution through five revisions over more than a week, emerged from a closed-door session Thursday predicting that the measure had enough support for adoption. "We had a very constructive discussion and I believe we are going to have the votes," he said.

U.N. diplomats say 11 of the 15 council members back the draft, which retains the possibility of sanctions against Sudan's oil industry and the establishment of a commission of inquiry into the genocide charges.

The main holdout has been China, which had earlier held out the threat of a veto. China, an importer of Sudanese oil, has strongly opposed sanctions. But late Thursday, Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya seemed to take a more conciliatory approach. "I cannot say anything about what the voting position my government will give to me, but I can see there are still some difficulties in the current draft, so I'm also talking to Ambassador John Danforth and my government is talking to the U.S.," he said.

Ambassador Danforth said he had little hope China would vote in favor of the measure. But a Chinese abstention would allow the resolution to pass.

Final consultations are expected Friday, setting the stage for a vote at a rare Saturday session. A Saturday vote would move the issue off the council's agenda before heads of state and government gather for the opening of the annual General Assembly debate next Tuesday.