U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, John Negroponte, on Monday, charged Sudan with actively supporting Darfur's feared Arab militias known as janjaweed. Negroponte called on Sudan to disarm the militias, which have laid waste to civilian villages across Darfur. For VOA, Noel King has more from Khartoum.
Negroponte's remark linking the janjaweed with the Sudanese government is one of the toughest accusations ever to come out of Washington.
Speaking at the end of a three-day visit to Sudan, the deputy secretary of state said the government must clamp down on the janjaweed, the rebel group that International Criminal Court has blamed for numerous cases of killing, rape, arson and looting in the western Sudanese region for the past four years.
"The government of Sudan must disarm the janjaweed-the Arab militias that we all know could not exist without the Sudanese government's active support," he said.
Negroponte also told reporters that Sudan faced "continued and possibly even intensified international isolation" if it did not move quickly to implement a U.N. plan for revamping the African Union peacekeeping operation in Darfur.
The international community has called for U.N. intervention in the region to bolster the 7,000-member African Union mission, currently on the ground. The A.U. has struggled amid often chaotic violence that has cost an estimated 200,000 lives.
Negroponte spoke to reporters in Khartoum on Monday following meetings with Sudanese President Omer Al Bashir.
"We must move quickly to a larger, hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force with a single unified chain of command that conforms to United Nations standards and practices," he said.
Meanwhile, Sudan's foreign minister, Lam Akol, reportedly agreed to the second phase of a proposed three-phase U.N. support package.
The second phase will deploy 3,000 U.N. peacekeepers to Darfur, backed by heavy equipment, including attack helicopters.
But observers - including the United States - have wondered if Sudan is merely buying time.
For months, Sudan has wavered on the question of U.N. support, at times indicating that it will accept a sizable UN force and, at others, comparing UN entry to colonial occupation.
"There have been disappointments in the past, where agreements have been made, but then not necessarily carried out," he said. "What I would stress at this particular point is that it is the actions that are required and that words are not sufficient."
The U.S. has threatened unilateral sanctions against Sudan, but this week said it will hold off on imposing sanctions to give the UN more time to negotiate with Sudan.
Mr. Negroponte leaves Sudan for Chad Monday. He will also visit Libya and Mauritania.