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U.N. OKs resolution on Sudan travel ban
Updated: 2005-03-30 08:48

The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday imposed an asset freeze and travel ban on people who defy peace efforts in Sudan's Darfur region in a resolution that also aims to limit the flow of weapons into the conflict-wracked area.

The resolution passed 12-0, with Algeria, Russia and China abstaining.

The vote is the latest step in drawn-out Security Council efforts to confront the Darfur crisis, where the number of dead from a conflict between government-backed militias and rebels is now estimated at 180,000.

Last week, the council unanimously approved a resolution creating a peacekeeping mission in Sudan. The peacekeepers will monitor a peace deal that ended a 21-year conflict unrelated to Darfur, but the council hopes it will also help Darfur move toward peace.

The council must still confront the most contentious issue of all: how best to punish war criminals in the Darfur region. Several council members want the cases referred to the International Criminal Court, a body that the United States opposes.

Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Elfatih Mohamed Erwa criticized the sanctions resolution, saying it was orchestrated by the U.S. Congress.

"We don't like the council to take a series of resolutions that are not wise and might make this situation worse," Erwa said. "The more sticks you bring to solve this problem, you are not going to solve this problem. You are going to make it more complicated."

Early on, the council had hoped to deal with all those issues in one resolution. But because agreement could not be reached, the United States decided to split the issues into three resolutions and deal with the other two issues later on.

However, after the Americans presented their resolution on peacekeepers Wednesday, France put forward its own resolution that would prosecute Sudanese war crimes suspects before the International Criminal Court.

France and several other members of the council had always demanded that all the issues be dealt with at once, not piecemeal as the United States proposes.

The French move would force the United States to choose between accepting a body it opposes or casting a politically damaging veto.

That's because it was the United States itself that had demanded swift action last year after declaring that genocide has occurred in Darfur, and does not want to appear to be holding up the process.

French officials said they planned to put forward their resolution on Wednesday at the earliest.

The peace deal that the new force will monitor is not connected to Darfur. But the council hopes the move will help bring about an end to the violence in Darfur,

Conflict has engulfed Darfur since February 2003, when two non-Arab rebel groups took up arms against the Arab-dominated government to win more political and economic rights for the region's African tribes.

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