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Resolution Against Sudan Likely to Pass

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Thursday that a new US-sponsored draft resolution which threatens sanctions on Sudan is likely to be approved by the UN Security Council.

The new draft was circulated at an experts meeting of the 15-nation council earlier in the day. The initial draft only called for an arms embargo and a travel ban against the Arab militia, the Janjaweed, which has been blamed for ethnic cleansing of black Africans in Darfur.

The new text demands Khartoum "apprehend and bring to justice" Janjaweed leaders and their associates who have incited and carried out human rights and international humanitarian law violations and other atrocities.

It requests Annan to report in 30 days the progress the Sudanese government makes in meeting the demand. Lack of progress would prompt the council to consider imposing sanctions on Khartoum, which the draft does not specify.

The Darfur conflict, which pits two rebel forces formed by black tribes against the government, has killed at least 10,000 people and displaced over 1 million, of whom more than 120,000 fled to Chad. It also left some 2 million people in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.

The Janjaweed has been widely seen as allies of the government in the conflict, something bluntly denied by Khartoum.

Diplomats said the council is scheduled to discuss the new US draft on Friday, which also urges the two rebel groups to respect the existing truce with the government and end violence immediately.     

US Proposes Sanctions Against Sudan     

US diplomats presented the new and tougher draft resolution to UN Security Council members ahead of a meeting Thursday between US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Annan -- their second in three weeks -- on the 15-month conflict in Darfur.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, Powell said he had received "very disturbing" initial reports from teams in the region about actions of the Janjaweed militias "and how the Janjaweed were supported by the government of Sudan."

Both Powell and Annan said they believe that it has more support than the first draft presented last month, which got a lukewarm welcome from council members.

Powell indicated that the new draft, "in some ways tougher than the original version," was more likely to get council backing. "There is probably more support for this resolution," he said.

Shortly after the United States presented the resolution, Annan also noted that "the reactions were quite positive." "My sense is that it will be successful," Annan added.     

Britain May Send Troops     

Also on Thursday, Britain said it will send Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to Sudan next month amid mounting concern over the war-torn Darfur region.

Straw will travel to Khartoum towards August 25, a Foreign Office spokesman said.

"At the moment the plan is that he will fly to Khartoum and then, maybe, on to Darfur, but the logistics still need to be worked out," he said.

Straw urged Sudan to take action in Darfur, saying that "the Sudan army is at best passive and at worst complicit in these attacks."

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Tony Blair said his government had no immediate plans for sending troops to Sudan, rejecting a newspaper report on a possible plan as "premature."

"We are not at that stage yet...Some of the headlines are premature," Blair told his monthly news briefing at 10 Downing Street.

The British Guardian newspaper reported that Blair has asked Downing Street and Foreign Office officials to draw up plans for possible military intervention in Sudan where more than a million refugees are at risk of famine and disease.

"We are working very closely with the African Union (AU) and the EU and what we need to do in the short term is get the government of Sudan to take the measures necessary to control these militias and to make sure that the aid and assistance gets through," Blair said.

However, he noted that his government did not rule out sending troops to Sudan in the future.     

UK, US Warned Not to Interfere     

Sudan's Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said on a visit to Paris, "I don't understand why Britain and the United States are systematically increasing pressure against us."

"(This) pressure closely resembles the increased pressure that was put on Iraq (before the war)," he said.

Ismail said Sudan would withdraw government troops from Darfur if Britain sends forces in.

"If he is to send troops to Darfur, let him inform us officially and what we will do is withdraw our troops from Darfur," Ismail said when asked about Guardian's report.

The minister warned that if Britain sent soldiers to the region,"in one or two months these forces are going to be considered by people of Darfur as occupying forces and the same incidents you are now facing in Iraq are going to be repeated in Darfur."

He also said Khartoum needs time to settle the situation. "Sudan needs time to implement agreement signed with the United Nations on July 3 and the African Union also needs time to help find a political solution," Ismail said.     

Rebels, AU Hold "Constructive" Talks     

While the United States presented the new resolution, AU's mediator for the conflict in Darfur said Thursday in Geneva that he had held constructive talks with rebel groups from the region.

"I express my satisfaction with the constructive dialogue with the different parties on a number of important questions," said Hamid Algabid after meeting leaders of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A).

Algabid said he would be following up the Geneva meeting with further consultations with the Sudanese government in Sudan, and later with the president of neighboring Chad.

But the special envoy did not give a date for resumption of peace talks involving the rebels and the Sudanese government.

Representatives of the two rebel groups left the lakeside villa of the Geneva-based Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, which had organized the meeting, without speaking to reporters.

The AU had been expected to announce this week a renewed attempt to bring Khartoum and two rebel groups back to the negotiating table.

(Xinhua News Agency July 23, 2004)

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