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UN Security Council Approves Resolution on Darfur, Threatens Sanctions - 2004-09-19

The U.N. Security Council has approved a resolution threatening oil sanctions against Sudan unless it halts atrocities in Darfur. The resolution also orders an investigation into charges that the terror in Darfur constitutes genocide.

After more than a week of intense negotiations, the Security Council met in a rare Saturday session to adopt the U.S.-drafted measure. The vote was 11-0. China, Russia, Algeria and Pakistan abstained.

The resolution was softened during the negotiation process. Early drafts of the text declared that the council would impose oil sanctions unless Sudan acted to rein in pro-government Arab militia members known as Janjaweed who are terrorizing black African villagers in Darfur.

The final version states only that the council will consider such sanctions. Other tough language, including a call for the Khartoum government to allow international overflights and ground reconnaissance to ensure compliance, was dropped.

In addition to the threat of sanctions, the resolution calls for an expanded African Union monitoring force and establishment of a commission of inquiry into the genocide charges.

In a toughly worded speech to the council, U.S. Ambassador John Danforth made clear that Washington holds the Sudanese government responsible for the actions of the Janjaweed militia. "The disaster in Darfur is entirely man-made," said Mr. Danforth. "Unlike natural disasters such as hurricanes and droughts, the tragedy in Darfur was entirely avoidable. It was fabricated by a government - as an overreaction to a rebellion -Intent on revenge, intent on persecution, intent on breaking the spirit of an entire people."

Ambassador Danforth said the resolution threatening sanctions against Sudan's lucrative oil industry was needed because the Khartoum government had failed to comply with an earlier resolution passed July 30. He urged Sudanese authorities to immediately allow increased numbers of African Union monitors into the country to ensure that promises to halt the killings are being kept.

"We note the letter from Sudan's permanent representative promising his government's full cooperation with the African Union," said Mr. Danforth. "We note further that previous promises of the government of Sudan have been made on paper but not honored in practice. The government of Sudan has the responsibility to end the tragedy in Darfur. We expect it to do so."

Sudan's U.N. representative Elfatih Erwa angrily rejected Ambassador Danforth's comments. He accused the Bush administration of using the crisis in Darfur as an election-season ploy to divert attention from Washington's failures in Iraq.

He said passage of the resolution had dashed all hopes of a political settlement of the conflicts in Sudan, and said his government welcomes establishment of a commission of inquiry into the genocide charges. "The government of Sudan is not against any inquiry, it's not scared of an inquiry," said Mr. Erwa. "We are not questioning the intention, the procedure of the inquiry, we are questioning the intentions of those who try to twist facts."

China had strongly opposed the measure, threatening to use its veto unless the provision on oil sanctions was softened. China is a major importer of Sudanese oil. Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya said his country had only accepted the measure after it was modified to place a strong emphasis on supporting African Union peacemaking efforts in Sudan.

"We find many elements in the draft, especially the first few drafts, difficult for China to accept," said Mr. Wang. "Of course with the efforts made by many Council members, the text has been improved, but there are still areas that pose difficulties for my government and my delegation, but we understand that the main objective is to help the African Union's efforts, so we did not want to 'throw the baby away with the bath water', so we did not block the adoption of this resolution."

Adoption of the resolution came days after Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the council to take action to halt the killings in Darfur. Mr. Annan dispatched the top U.N. officials on human rights and genocide to the region to look into conditions. They were due to arrive over the weekend.

In his presentation to the Security Council, U.S. Ambassador Danforth said 50,000 people have been killed in Darfur, 1.3 million civilians uprooted from their homes, and two million more people are in need of assistance.