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US Pushes for Prompt Adoption of Sudan Resolution at UN - 2004-09-15

The United States is pushing for prompt U.N. Security Council approval of a resolution threatening sanctions against Sudan for failing to protect civilians in Darfur. But the measure is encountering stiff opposition, including a possible veto.

U.S. diplomats are working feverishly to win backing for a measure that would consider sanctions against Sudan's oil industry unless the Khartoum government acts to stop Arab militias terrorizing civilians in the Darfur region.

As he went into a closed-door meeting Wednesday, Washington's deputy U.N. representative, Stuart Holliday, said Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and the African Union were lobbying behind the scenes for the resolution's adoption. "We're consulting with our Council partners now, and we're I think grateful to, working closely with A.U. particularly, and President Obasanjo and the rest of council, EU members here," he said.

In an effort to win broad support, the United States softened the resolution's wording this week. An original draft threatened that the Security Council "will take" punitive measures, including oil sanctions.

The revised draft simply declares that the Council "shall consider" actions to affect Sudan's petroleum sector.

Toughening the threat of sanctions became a priority last week when Secretary of State Colin Powell said genocide is being committed in Darfur. But several Security Council members, including veto-wielding China and Russia, have expressed deep reservations about threatening Sudan.

China's ambassador, Wang Guangya, said his country strongly opposes sanctions against Sudan's lucrative oil industry. China is a major importer of Sudanese oil.

Ambassador Wang also objected to a provision that would order a Commission of Inquiry to look into the genocide charge. He suggested China might invoke its rarely used veto power to block the measure.

Russia's ambassador, Andrey Denisov, was less harsh in his assessment of the U.S. draft. But he said Russia would have a hard time supporting the measure. "We don't like it. Both sanctions and specifically mentioning oil. But I don't want to prejudge, because diplomatic language is so flexible that you can say one thing in different ways," he said.

Ambassador Munir Akram of Council member Pakistan said the wording in the revised U.S. draft is slightly better than the original. But he said Pakistan remains opposed to sanctions, as well as to the formation of a Commission of Inquiry on the genocide question. He questioned whether sanctions against Sudan's oil industry would be credible.

"And if the threat is held out by the Security Council and Sudan says we will not cooperate any more under threat, you will have a lot of people dying in Sudan and what will the international community do after that? Will it send in a force of 50,000 people? Is it capable of doing it? It's not. So let's not hold out empty threats or threats that could cause lots of people to die," he said.

Sudan's government has rejected the U.S. draft resolution, calling it unfair and unbalanced. Nevertheless, the measure has solid backing from European members of the Council, and diplomatic vote-counters say it will probably be approved, absent a Chinese veto.

A vote could be held as early as Friday.