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Powell issues ultimatum to Sudan over Darfur
Updated: 2004-07-01 09:28

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell warned Sudan on Wednesday of U.N. action within days or weeks unless it disarms militias killing in the Darfur region and allows full aid access to more than one million refugees.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said his government would combat the Arab militias in the remote western region and improve aid access to refugees caught up in what the United Nations has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

An unidentified Red Cross worker escorts U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell through a Sudanese refugee camp in the Sudan Wednesday, June 30, 2004. Powell's visit came as the United States increased pressure on Sudan with a draft resolution calling on the United Nations to impose an arms embargo and travel ban on the Arab militias that are blamed for attacks in Sudan's western Darfur region. [AP]
"I am pleased with the response that we have received from the Sudanese government," Powell said after talks with Sudan's leaders and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who was also in Khartoum to highlight international concern over Darfur.

"There already has been consideration given to U.N. resolutions...unless these...kind of commitments (from the Sudanese government) are actually executed," Powell, who visited Darfur as part of his Sudan trip, told reporters.

"We are talking about within days or weeks," he said.

U.S. officials and human rights groups accuse Khartoum of arming and supporting the Janjaweed Arab militias to raid black African villages in Darfur in a campaign of ethnic cleansing. Khartoum denies the charges, saying the Janjaweed are outlaws.

Some 10,000 to 30,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the Darfur crisis in the oil-producing country.


The United States called for the United Nations to impose an arms embargo and travel ban on Darfur's militias, but a new U.S.-drafted Security Council resolution obtained by Reuters would not impose sanctions against the Khartoum government.

Ismail said Sudan would cooperate with the United States and the United Nations over Darfur, a vast arid region where tension has often flared between Arab nomads and African farmers.

"We will combat any militias and Janjaweed so that we secure the protection of civilians," said Ismail, adding he would seek to speed up talks with two groups from African tribes who launched a rebellion in Darfur last year.

"We are going to work on lifting any restrictions on humanitarian aid," he said.

The rebels signed a cease-fire with Khartoum on April 8 but both sides have since accused each other of violations.

Powell received cheers when he visited what aid workers called a show camp for those displaced by the Darfur fighting.

"We all want them to return to their homes and that will require the re-establishment throughout Darfur of security, the end of fighting, the end of the Janjaweed," Powell told aid workers and Darfuris living in the Abou Shouk camp.


Thousands of displaced Darfuris clapped and waved walking sticks to welcome Powell on his 20-minute visit to the camp, a few miles outside El Fasher, capital of Northern Darfur state.

Powell arrived in Sudan on Tuesday to press the government over Darfur, which is badly in need of food and medicine.

Among the Sudanese leaders he met was President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who promised to disarm the Janjaweed and give relief organizations access to the region.

But a senior U.S. official said: "(Bashir) has said these things before. We'll have to see what they actually do."

The chairman of the Commission of the African Union, Alpha Oumar Konare, urged Khartoum to disarm the militias.

Konare told a conference of African foreign ministers he hoped a meeting of Sudanese political groups due to begin in Chad's capital N'Djamena on July 2 would help to resolve the crisis.

The conflict in Darfur has spread into neighboring Chad and Chadian President Idriss Deby said on Tuesday more than 300 civilians had been killed in cross-border raids.

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