UN council to discuss Sudan

Deadlocked Security Council diplomats are to meet on Wednesday to discuss three UN resolutions on Sudan proposed by the United States.

    UN Security Council diplomats will meet to discuss resolutions

    After weeks of impasse on potential war crimes trials and sanctions, on Tuesday the US decided to split the draft into separate resolutions, along with a third measure to approve a UN peacekeeping force in Sudan.


    The two main measures on the Darfur region - sanctions and a venue to try war crimes suspects - face opposition.


    "We were literally running out of time on Sudan and we felt strongly that we had to move ahead," acting US ambassador Anne Patterson said.


    "So what we have done is circulate three draft resolutions, one on peacekeeping, one on sanctions, and one that would provide for measures to end impunity," she said.


    The US hopes to have at least the peacekeeping resolution adopted this week. Council members are consulting their governments before discussions on Wednesday.


    Council members largely agree on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's request to send more than 10,000 peacekeepers to monitor a north-south peace accord signed in January that ended 21 years of civil war.


    But there are fears that the separate crisis in Sudan's troubled western Darfur region, where a rebel uprising which started two years ago has led to an estimated 180,000 dead, could derail the north-south peace.


    Trials and sanctions


    Despite those concerns, the council has been at loggerheads over where to hold any trials for suspected war crimes that have been committed in Darfur, as well as whether to impose sanctions on individuals.


    "It's better for the council to start taking action, even if it's a modest action"

    Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg, Brazil's UN ambassador

    In addition, the delays - and the prospect of authorising a peacekeeping mission for Sudan that would not have a mandate to act in Darfur - have raised questions about the council's ability to address the crisis.


    The council has already passed two one-week extensions of the current UN mission in Sudan, which is on the ground to prepare for the peacekeeping force, and diplomats fear a third extension could hurt the council's credibility.


    "It's better for the council to start taking action, even if it's a modest action ... so that people see that the council is working," said Brazil's UN ambassador and current council president, Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg.


    "We should not [allow] continuing delays to take any decision. This is bad," he said. The extended mandate expires on Thursday.




    Most council members favour referring war crimes suspects to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, the world's first permanent tribunal for crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes.


    The Bush administration opposes
    the International Criminal Court 

    But the administration of US President George Bush opposes the ICC over fears that US citizens could be the target of lawsuits politically motivated by opposition to US policies.


    Council members Algeria, China and Russia have meanwhile come out against US-proposed sanctions - a travel ban and asset freeze - on individuals suspected of jeopardising the peace and committing human rights abuses.


    The stand-off has highlighted the issue of political horse-trading at the United Nations - especially since Jan Egeland, the UN's top humanitarian official, estimated that 10,000 people are dying in Darfur each month.


    US criticised


    Rights groups in particular have criticised the US over its stance on the ICC, claiming that its position is effectively blocking attempts to bring the guilty in Darfur to justice.


    But Algeria and China have also said they had reservations about an ICC referral.


    "We're very much behind accountability. It's obviously a central part of our strategy in Sudan"

    Anne Patterson, the acting US ambassador to the UN

    "We're very much behind accountability. It's obviously a central part of our strategy in Sudan," US ambassador Patterson said, calling the draft on war crimes trials a "placeholder" measure.


    She said the resolution would put forward the option of ICC referral, a US proposal for a special war crimes court based in Tanzania, and a Nigerian suggestion for an African Union-backed court.


    "The resolution makes no judgement as to which would be preferable but simply enables discussions to continue until a decision is reached," Patterson said.


    The non-ICC options have won little support from council members.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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