The United Nations Security Council has approved a resolution calling on the Sudanese government to disarm Arab militias carrying out attacks in Sudan's western Darfur region. The resolution paves the way for possible sanctions against the Sudanese government if it does not comply within 30 days.
The final text does not contain the word "sanctions," but demands that Sudan stop the Janjaweed militia that is accused of committing mass murder and rape and forcing about one million black Sudanese villagers from their homes. It also calls for Khartoum to show it is rounding up militia leaders and bringing them to justice.
After 30 days, if the Security Council determines that the Sudanese government is not living up to these commitments, the U.N. could decide to impose penalties, as outlined in a separate U.N. document. Those penalties include interruption of economic and diplomatic ties.
U.S. Ambassador John Danforth said the Sudanese government is not protecting its civilians, so the United Nations had to act.
"The government of Sudan has left us no choice. It has done the unthinkable," he said. "It has fostered an armed attack on its own civilian population. It has created a humanitarian disaster. So the resolution just adopted is our necessary response if we are to help save the people of Darfur."
At least 30,000 people have died since fighting between Arab militias and Sudanese rebels began in February of last year. One million people have been forced to flee their homes, and women living in internally displaced camps report being raped by Janjaweed militiamen when they leave the camps for firewood or in search of food.
The U.S.-drafted resolution passed by a vote of 13-0. China and Pakistan abstained, saying they preferred to let negotiations continue rather than interfere with Sudan's internal affairs.
The Sudanese Ambassador, Elfatih Mohammed Ahmed Erwa, accused the United States of making aggressive moves to pass the resolution because of what he called, "local politics," a reference to the upcoming U.S. presidential election. He also said Sudan hasn't been given enough time to fulfill the agreement it made earlier this month with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to disarm the Janjaweed.
"Sudan was not even given the time. The resolution was presented at the time when we were signing with the secretary-general," he said. "Even after one day, even three weeks until now, we haven't even had the time. We started implementing, and we will keep implementing. And it's our obligation. We have to honor it. We will do the right thing, regardless of the way we have been treated."
The French ambassador, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, who co-sponsored the resolution, said he hopes the passage will influence the Sudanese government to act quickly.
"What is important is to put pressure," he said. "It would be very difficult and probably impossible to settle the humanitarian crisis in Darfur without the cooperation of the Sudanese government, but to do that, pressure is needed."
According to the terms of the resolution, Sudan must report its progress to the Security Council at the end of August.