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UN Delegation Begins Tour of Darfur on Heels of Sanctions Threat - 2004-09-20


The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Monday began a four-day visit to the war-torn Darfur region of western Sudan. The visit comes at a time when the Sudanese government is angry at Saturday's U.N. Security Council resolution threatening sanctions against the country's oil industry unless the government restores security in Darfur.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, and the Secretary General's Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Juan Mendez, arrived in El Fashir town in Darfur Monday to begin several days of visits in the region.

Over the weekend, the delegation met with Sudanese government officials, non-government organization representatives, U.N. officials and others in Sudan's capital, Khartoum.

According to a statement from the High Commissioner's office, the purpose of the trip is to see what more can be done to prevent further massacres, rapes and displacements that the people of Darfur have been subjected to during the past 19 months of fighting there.

The human rights commissioner's visit follows on the heels of a Security Council resolution that the United States sponsored Saturday.

The resolution calls for the Sudanese government to take specific measures to control militias in Darfur, especially the Janjaweed militia, in order to stop the atrocities occurring there.

The council said Sudan's oil industry might face sanctions if the government fails to restore security to Darfur.

The resolution also asks U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to set up a commission that would investigate whether the violence in Darfur could be named "genocide."

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell recently told a Senate committee that fighting in Darfur constitutes a genocide in which Arab militias target black Africans.

The spokesman for Sudan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Ahmed Abdel Ghassar, told VOA Monday his country receives virtually all of its national income from the oil industry.

Mr. Ghassar says the Sudanese government needs that income to finance development projects in all areas of Sudan, including Darfur. He says it will be the Sudanese people themselves who will suffer if that income is cut off by sanctions.

"What is the relationship between [the] political problem in Darfur and the embargo of oil on Sudan? What is the connection?" he questioned. "We don't see any connection,"

Mr. Ghassar says the U.N. resolution is unfair for putting too much burden on the Sudan government, and not recognizing it efforts to improve the situation in Darfur.

The Darfur conflict, which has been labeled the world's worst humanitarian crisis, has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced an estimated 1.2 million more.

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