Sudan warned UN sanctions are imminent
The Sudanese government yesterday faced international isolation, as the EU lined up behind Washington to demand United Nations sanctions unless there was an end to the violence in Darfur which has killed up to 30,000 people.
Brushing aside assurances from the Sudanese foreign minister, EU ministers issued a tough denunciation of his government, and called on the UN to agree on measures against Khartoum if there was no quick end to the atrocities.
The international community has been angered by the failure of the Sudanese authorities to abide by pledges to disarm Arab militias, including the Janjaweed, or to provide security for relief efforts.
In a toughly-worded statement, the EU said that "despite all contrary announcements of the government of Sudan" there are continuing reports of massive human rights violations "including systematic rape of women".
Aid agencies, whose efforts have been hampered, yesterday argued that the international response had not been quick enough. Rowan Gillies, head of the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières, said: "The urgency of response is not adequate. The scale of response is not adequate. Day in, day out these people are at huge risk.
"There is the potential for significant numbers of deaths due to malnutrition or epidemics in the refugee camps where conditions have hardly improved at all despite increased international attention."
At a meeting in Brussels yesterday, EU foreign ministers did not specify what type of sanctions they wished to see applied, nor did they go as far as the US Congress, which has described the massive loss of life in Darfur as "genocide".
But Ben Bot, Foreign Minister of the Netherlands which holds the EU presidency, said that the authorities in Khartoum "know very well the threat of sanctions is imminent if they don't comply. We have made that crystal clear to them."
Europe's uncompromising stance was spelled out by Mr Bot, and by Javier Solana, the EU's high representative, during separate meetings with the Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail.
Mr Ismail claimed his government was doing all in its power to limit the bloodshed and dismissed resolutions passed by the US Congress declaring that the killings amount to genocide. But his diplomatic offensive in Europe appears to have achieved nothing. Germany's Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, argued that the militia "need to be disarmed and the responsible need to go to trial".
And officials said that a draft UN resolution was already circulating in New York as the UN prepared to increase pressure on the Sudanese authorities.
It emerged yesterday that the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, will hold talks with the Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, and other African leaders on peace initiatives in Sudan and Ivory Coast on Thursday. But the international community has finally begun to lose patience over the violence, which began 15 months ago when two rebel groups from Darfur's African tribes took up arms in a struggle over land and resources. Arab militias known as Janjaweed then began a brutal campaign to drive out the black Africans.
The UN says that up to 30,000 people, most of them black Africans, have been killed in Darfur, and an estimated 2.2 million are in urgent need of food or medical attention. The EU, the US and humanitarian groups have accused the Sudanese government of backing the militias, a claim which is denied by Khartoum.
Despite the diplomatic row, the EU is not planning to cut off the millions it gives Sudan in development aid on the basis that to do so would punish the most vulnerable. The EU has also sent €213m (£141m) in humanitarian aid this year and has promised to make available €12m (£8m) to pay for an African Union peacekeeping mission, which would be deployed once a lasting ceasefire takes hold.