Undeterred by the failure to win support for a similar move last year, the US Department of State on Tuesday said it hoped that a new UN report on atrocities committed in the western region of Darfur would prompt UN Security Council members to take stronger action this time.

 "The United States is now proposing to other council members a number of elements: An accountability tribunal, deployment of peacekeepers and the imposition of sanctions, which we believe up the ante and do move aggressively to try to stop those atrocities," said department spokesman Richard Boucher.

The fresh US push for sanctions coincided with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's call for deploying 10,130 peacekeepers to restore peace in Sudan's troubled south.

The peacekeepers are to help Khartoum enforce the peace deal recently signed between the government and rebels in the south. 

Twin conflicts

A civil war had raged in southern Sudan for the past 21 years and claimed 1.5 million lives, while the conflict in Darfur erupted in 2003.

The peace deal signed last month
ended the southern conflict

The Department of State conceded the new UN report failed to back the US contention that Khartoum was responsible for genocide in Darfur.

It also acknowledged that Washington had yet to see any change of heart among Security Council members such as China that oppose oil sanctions.

Without providing details, Boucher said Washington had proposed oil sanctions, an asset freeze and travel ban on Sudanese officials and militia members as well as the extension of an arms embargo on the government.

The UN released a report on Monday saying crimes against humanity and war crimes were committed in Darfur, but stopped short of accusing the government of genocide.

Party leader arrested

 

Meanwhile, Sudanese security forces arrested a leader of the eastern-based Beja Congress party after he spoke to journalists about the shooting of demonstrators by police, another politician from the party said on Tuesday. 

 

Government forces in Port Sudan fired on a crowd of demonstrators, mostly from the Beja tribe, on Saturday. 

 

Ahmad Muhammad Mukhtar, the president of the Beja Congress in Port Sudan, said by telephone that security forces had arrested the secretary-general of the party, Abd Allah Musa Abd Allah, on Monday night.

 

The toll from the shootings stands at 20, after two people died from injuries overnight, hospital sources said on Tuesday.