U.S. seeking U.N. sanctions to halt atrocities in Sudan

Rights groups say nations are moving too slowly

July 08, 2004|By James Rupert | James Rupert,NEWSDAY

UNITED NATIONS - The United States tightened pressure yesterday on Sudan to halt atrocities by pro-government militias against civilians in the Darfur region, saying it wants United Nations sanctions imposed on militia leaders unless the attacks end within days.

But human rights and Africa-focused groups say U.S. and other governments are moving too slowly to save hundreds of thousands of endangered people.

The U.N. Security Council is considering a U.S. draft resolution on the 16-month-old civil war in Darfur, which has left 10,000 to 30,000 dead and a million people huddled in refugee camps, short of food, water, medicine and shelter.

The obscure violence of Darfur has in recent days forced itself onto the agendas of the Bush administration and the United Nations. Secretary of State Colin Powell and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan crossed paths in Sudan last week, each providing his institution's first top-level focus on the crisis, which U.N. officials have called the world's worst current humanitarian crisis.

The new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Danforth, told reporters yesterday that Sudan's government, which is dominated by ethnic Arabs, must halt atrocities by the Arab militias called Janjaweed against non-Arab tribes of Darfur's deserts and grasslands. "We are talking about days. We are talking about this week," Danforth said after a Security Council session on the crisis.

Washington's draft resolution would ban arms purchases or international travel by leaders of the Janjaweed if they do not halt attacks within 30 days. But Danforth, a former Bush administration special envoy to Sudan, declared yesterday that "30 days is too long for the government to act."

New York-based Human Rights Watch and other groups have insisted that any sanctions must target the Sudanese government of President Omar el-Bashir, whose military has been backing the Janjaweed. Diplomats told reporters yesterday at the United Nations that a broadening of the proposed sanctions was under discussion.

But some Security Council members were resisting stepped-up pressure on Sudan. Pakistan's ambassador was one of several critics who noted that U.N. members seem more willing to talk about Darfur than to act on it, noting that countries have so far donated only about a third of the $350 million that U.N. humanitarian agencies are pleading for to save the lives of Darfur's uprooted and impoverished subsistence farmers and herders.

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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