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Security Council Demands Sudan Cooperation on Darfur Crimes

The U.N. Security Council is demanding that Sudan cooperate with the International Criminal Court in its efforts to prosecute individuals suspected of perpetrating war crimes and crimes against humanity in the war-torn Darfur region. From United Nation's headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

The Security Council, just back from a mission to Sudan, is turning up the pressure on Khartoum to comply with the ICC's demand that it turn over a senior government official and a former militia leader accused of atrocities committed during the five-year conflict in western Sudan's Darfur region.

Sudan has made it clear it will not hand over suspects or cooperate with the court.

In a non-binding statement, the council unanimously called for Khartoum and all other parties to the Darfur conflict to cooperate fully with the ICC, in accordance with a 2005 Security Council resolution [1593] that referred the situation in Darfur to the court at The Hague.

Costa Rican Ambassador Jorge Urbina, whose mission drafted the statement, said it is not meant to punish the Sudanese government, but to force compliance with the existing resolution and show support for the ICC.

"The main interest of my country with this action is to protect the people of Sudan," he said. "We are not here to insult any government."

A coalition of human rights groups has also called for Sudan to turn over suspects to the ICC. Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch, which is part of the coalition, said the council's statement sends an important message to the Khartoum government.

"The bottom line message that this sends is that Khartoum, which has been trying to play minor concessions on peacekeeping off against justice as a means to deflect criticism of its obstruction of justice - is that the game is up," he said. "These issues are joined at the hip, and I think the council statement coming on the heels of its mission to Khartoum confirms that."

The United States holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council this month. Washington is not an official party to the ICC, and Dicker welcomed the adoption of this statement supporting the court under its leadership, saying it is evidence of a smarter, more pragmatic direction in relations between the ICC and Washington.

But U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad brushed aside suggestions that there is a shift in the U.S. attitude toward the court, saying the U.S. supported the statement, but that Washington's overall approach to the court has not changed.

Last year, the ICC issued arrest warrants for a Sudanese minister [Ahmed Haroun] and a former militia leader [Ali Kosheib], charging them with 51 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Earlier this month, the court's chief prosecutor said he is pursuing a new case against senior Sudanese officials, saying the "whole state apparatus" can be linked to war crimes in Darfur. Sudanese officials have denounced the allegations.