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Powell, Annan to Discuss Tougher UN Resolution on Darfur - 2004-07-21


Secretary of State Colin Powell goes to New York Thursday to confer with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan on the humanitarian crisis in Sudan's western Darfur region. U.S. officials are toughening the language of a draft Security Council resolution aimed at getting Sudanese authorities to rein-in Arab militias in Darfur, who are accused of ethnic-cleansing.

Mr. Powell and Secretary-General Annan made coordinated visits to Sudan three weeks ago and called on authorities in Khartoum to take specific steps to ease the Darfur crisis.

Officials say that since then, the Sudanese government has taken some steps to ease humanitarian access to the region. But Mr. Powell says he is "completely dissatisfied" with Khartoum's response on the security side.

A senior U.S. diplomat told reporters here the Secretary will discuss with the U.N. chief ways to "turn up the heat" on Sudan, including a revised Security Council resolution that would hit leaders of not only the "Janjaweed" militias, but also key officials in the Khartoum government, with targeted sanctions.

The Bush administration tabled a draft resolution on the Darfur crisis earlier this month. But it has not pressed for a vote, awaiting a visible response from Khartoum to the demands by Secretary Powell and Mr. Annan, and a now-completed mission to Sudan by the Secretary-General's special envoy Jan Pronk.

At a news briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said it is now clear that Sudan's response is inadequate.

"The things that we had asked to see, the things that we think need to be done have not been done. And in fact we're continuing to get reports of violence, continuing to get reports of insecurity," he said. "As the secretary said yesterday, not enough is being done to break the hold of the Janjaweed, rapes are still occurring, people don't feel safe leaving the camps to go out and forage for food. The situation is very, very serious."

Tens of thousands of people have been reported killed and more than one million driven from their homes in the 15-month-old Darfur conflict, in which the government-backed militias have used scorched-earth tactics against local rebels and black African villagers seen as supporting them.

During the Powell and Annan missions to Sudan, the Khartoum government promised to disarm the militias, protect displaced civilians and allow access to Darfur by relief workers and human rights monitors.

However Secretary-General Annan's envoy Mr. Pronk said in New York Wednesday there has been "no progress what so ever" on security for the refugees.

The U.S. senior diplomat who spoke to reporters said it's hoped that Thursday's Powell-Annan meeting help focus public attention on Darfur and generate support for a Security Council resolution.

He acknowledged that "a few" members of the council were holding out against the draft, which would threaten an arms embargo and travel ban against the Janjaweed and their supporters within the Khartoum government within a month, if U.N. terms are not met.

The Bush administration has described actions of the Janjaweed as "ethnic cleansing." It is also examining whether the situation fits the definition of genocide, which could trigger far-reaching penalties against those responsible under a 1948 international convention.

But the senior diplomat said such a legal determination would be of no immediate help to hundreds of thousands of people in Darfur whose lives are in jeopardy, and the important thing now is to disarm the militias.