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Annan Says Sudan Leaders Will Be Held Accountable for Darfur Violence

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has warned Sudan's leaders they face international disgrace unless they act quickly to halt the growing human catastrophe in Darfur. Mr. Annan suggested outside intervention may be needed to prevent a Rwanda-style disaster in Darfur.

In a strongly-worded address to the Security Council, Secretary-General Annan said the latest fighting in Darfur shows "utter disregard" for a peace deal signed last May in Abuja, Nigeria.

Mr. Annan said all parties to the Darfur conflict share blame for bringing the region to what he called "the brink of calamity". But he reserved his harshest criticism for the Khartoum government, saying the scope of the looming humanitarian disaster is reminiscent of the genocide in Rwanda a decade earlier.

"Can the international community, having not done enough for the people of Rwanda in their time of need, just watch as this tragedy deepens? Can we contemplate failing yet another test? Lessons are either learned or not; principles are either upheld or scorned," he said. "This is no time for the middle ground of half-measures or further debate."

A number of Council diplomats echoed Mr. Annan's comments. Denmark's U.N. Ambassador Ellen Margrethe Loj urged the world body to consider prompt intervention.

"We must spare no effort to avoid yet another genocide from taking place on the African continent," she said.

Secretary-General Annan urged Sudan's leaders to drop their opposition to U.N. takeover of Darfur peacekeeping operations, as mandated in a recent Security Council resolution. He warned of serious consequences if they refuse.

"The consequences of the government's current, yet more death and suffering, perhaps on a catastrophic scale, will be felt first and foremost by the people of Darfur," he said. "But the Government itself will also suffer if it fails in its sacred responsibility to protect its own people. It will suffer opprobrium and disgrace, in the eyes of all Africa, and the whole international community. Moreover, neither those who decide such policies, nor those who carry them out, should imagine that they will not be held accountable."

Sudanese diplomats had failed to attend earlier Security Council meetings on Darfur, but Sudanese special envoy Yasir Abdel-Salaam attended Monday's session. Speaking through an interpreter he denied his government is violating the May peace agreement, and accused the Council of deliberately seeking a confrontation over Darfur.

"The Security Council has deliberately taken hasty measures without preparing the political context with all parties in the conflict, and the dialogue is a one-way dialogue, so the Council has chosen the path of confrontation," he said.

U.S. representative William Brencick told the Council the United States will seek approval of a toughly-worded statement demanding Sudan's cooperation with the international community. The matter could come up next week, when government ministers and heads of state are in New York for the annual U.N. General Assembly debate.