WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday that Sudan is running out of time to halt the humanitarian crisis in its Darfur region. He warned of United Nations sanctions should the government fail to stop attacks on refugee camps.
"Too many lives have already been lost," Powell said at a conference held by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "We cannot lose any more time."
More than 1 million Sudanese, most of them African Muslims, have been targeted by Arab militias known as the Janjaweed. The crisis erupted last year when members of three African ethnic groups rebelled against what they called government repression. The government has been accused of backing the militia attacks.
Thousands of refugees have been killed by the Janjaweed or have died of hunger and illness, and many more are expected to starve if the crisis continues.
One week after an official trip to Sudan, where Powell visited refugee camps and met with government officials in the capital, Khartoum, he said the government's promises to control the Janjaweed and provide humanitarian groups free passage have yet to be carried out.
"We need immediate improvement to the situation, and if we don't see that, then the United States and the international community will have to consider further measures," Powell said.
He outlined a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that "commits all states to target sanctions against the Janjaweed militias and those who aid and abet them as well as others who may have responsibility for this tragic situation."
John C. Danforth, the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Wednesday that sanctions could come in a matter of days.
Powell also stressed the urgency of the crisis.
"We want to see dramatic improvements on the ground right now," the secretary of state said. "Despite the promises that have been made, we have yet to see these dramatic improvements."
Two House members who also spoke at the conference cast the situation as dire.
Rep. Ed Royce, a California Republican who is chairman of the House subcommittee on Africa, called the crisis a "genocide." He also expressed doubt about the willingness of the government in Khartoum to stop it.
Rep. Frank R. Wolf, a Virginia Republican who also visited Sudan last week, read a letter signed by 40 Sudanese women who said they were raped by Janjaweed men.