Foreign ministers of the European Union have called for the United Nations to immediately probe whether atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan are genocide. Arab militias are accused of massive human rights abuses against African villagers in Darfur, and the conflict is drawing increasing international attention.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels urged U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to establish "as soon as possible" a special investigation, and they called on Sudan to stop the fighting and impose a cease-fire in the Darfur region, or face U.N. sanctions.
In a statement, the ministers said there is no indication that the Sudanese government has taken real steps to disarm and neutralize the warring sides. Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot, whose country holds the EU presidency, said the warning is clear.
"We are urgently inviting the Sudanese government once again to disarm the militia," he said. "If no progress can be reported the European Union envisages other measures including sanctions."
The United Nations says the world's worst humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Sudan, and the latest U.N. situation report on the western region of the country said looting and attacks are on the rise.
Rebels in Darfur launched a revolt in early 2003, after years of clashes over land between African farmers and Arab nomads. The rebels say Khartoum arms the Arab Militia to crush the rebels and their civilian supporters. The government denies this.
Secretary of State Colin Powell has said Sudan's efforts to contain the Arab militia are not working, and Washington will continue to push for sanctions on Khartoum.
The United States has circulated a draft U.N. Security Council resolution threatening sanctions on Sudan's oil industry, if abuses in the region are not stopped. The measure also calls on Sudan to accept a larger monitoring force from the African Union, which already has 80 observers and a 300-member protection force to monitor the frequently violated cease-fire between Darfur rebels and Khartoum.
Arab militias are blamed for widespread violence that has killed some 30,000 people and forced over 1.2 million to flee their homes.