Powell threatens Sudan with UN resolution
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell threatened Sudan with unspecified U.N. Security Council action on Tuesday if it failed to crack down on Arab militias whose actions he said were approaching genocide against African villagers in the western Darfur region.
Powell said he had told President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in a "candid, direct" conversation to end attacks by the militias, provide full access for humanitarian aid, restart political talks with rebel groups in Darfur and allow more international cease-fire monitors into the region.
"Unless we see more movement soon on all of these areas it may be necessary for the international community to begin considering other actions, to include Security Council action," Powell told a news conference with Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail.
The Sudanese government has pledged to disarm the militias, known as the Janjaweed, and Ismail said he hoped that during Powell's visit they could agree on how to manage the security and humanitarian crisis in the region.
A senior U.S. official said that up to one million displaced Sudanese could die this year in camps in the Darfur region because government-backed Arab militias have razed villages, burned crops and destroyed water sources.
One million Darfuris have fled their homes in the past 18 months because of the conflict in the arid region between the Janjaweed, the government and two rebel groups who say they are acting to protect the villagers.
Relief organizations are racing to take food and medicine to camps for displaced people before the imminent rainy season cuts off vast parts of the region.
"People are dying and the death rate is going to go up significantly ... we see indicators and elements that would start to move you toward a genocidal conclusion, but we're not there yet," Powell said en route to Khartoum from Turkey.
The Sudanese government rejects charges that it supports the Janjaweed and played down the severity of what U.S. officials say is the world's worst current humanitarian crisis.
"We believe there is no famine, no epidemic (disease) but that does not mean there is no humanitarian problem that needs to be addressed," Ismail said.
PROMISE OF ACCESS
In a speech before Powell arrived, Bashir said his government would redouble efforts to secure access to the needy. Powell said the president reiterated in his meeting Sudan's commitment to allow aid to flow to the region and recognized providing security in the area was the top priority to save lives.
A senior official in the U.S. delegation reacted with skepticism. "He promised these things several weeks ago and we have not seen any evidence that things have changed on the ground," the official, who asked not to be named, said.
Analysts say the Sudanese army has worked with the Janjaweed but the militias are not completely under its control. The government has limited resources to impose law and order in an undeveloped region the size of France.
Making the first visit to Sudan by such a senior U.S. official in more than two decades, Powell declined to specify what action the United States would take against Sudan.
But he warned that the United States was already working on a U.N. resolution about Darfur that could lead to international sanctions against Africa's largest country.
Sudan could also miss the benefits, such as improving relations with Washington, which it expects for resolving a separate conflict in the south earlier this year, he added.
Criticized for responding too slowly to the crisis and under pressure in the U.S. Congress to do more, Powell will meet U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Khartoum on Wednesday and visit Darfur to see the catastrophe for himself.