France to delay UN vote over Darfur

France has said it will delay until next week a UN vote on a resolution referring Sudanese war crimes cases to the International Criminal Court, a plan rejected by Washington.

    Two million people have fled their homes in Darfur since 2003

    The decision eases pressure on Washington, which - had the UN Security Council vote gone forward - would have obliged to choose between casting an embarrassing veto or accepting a tribunal it opposes.


    French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere said on Thursday that he had agreed to the delay at the request of delegations that needed more time to study the text.

    Earlier reports said the US was in a tight spot over France's demand for a vote on a measure referring perpetrators of atrocities in Sudan's Darfur region to the International Criminal Court, which Washington rejects.


    The French draft, which was expected to be brought up on Thursday afternoon, would have excluded nationals of any state that had not ratified the treaty setting up the Hague-based court - including American citizens - from prosecution for participating in any UN operation in Sudan. 


    Sudan's stance


     Khidhr Harun, Sudan's ambassador in Washington, told Aljazeera that Khartoum does not back the French draft resolution.


    "Sudan refuses trying its nationals before the ICC," he said.


    The UN has struggled to forge a
    consensus on the Darfur issue

    Harun said he believes
    Sudan's judiciary is capable of trying any person suspected of involvement in any crime.


    He said a number of suspects had already been put on trial after having been accused of committing crimes in Darfur.


    "Within the last two days, groups comprising what are called Janjawid have been arrested west of Darfur and they are now under investigation," Harun said.


    Abstention or veto


    Earlier, the French Ambassador was quoted as saying Paris did not intend to force Washington into an embarrassing veto.


    "The Security Council - and we're one of those with a very strong position on this issue - says it is absolutely essential to act against impunity," de la Sabliere told French radio RFI.


    "It's essential because the victims need justice, but also because it is the best way to prevent further crimes. We had to act now, and France has shouldered its responsibilities today."


    US wants an a UN-African Union
    court to try war crimes accused

    When the French draft comes up for vote next, the US could either abstain, and thus let a measure go through that it has vowed to oppose, or veto it, preventing a crackdown on what the US says is a genocide by the only tribunal able to start an immediate investigation.


    The US, which on Tuesday split its draft resolution on Sudan into three parts in an effort to break a Security Council deadlock on Sudan, had decided to seek Thursday's vote only on the part authorising 10,000 peacekeepers for southern Sudan, which was virtually assured of passage.


    That would have delayed action on the two other resolutions dealing with Darfur - one offering three options on how to prosecute Darfur atrocities and one seeking sanctions targeting government and rebel leaders involved in fighting there.


    Divided council


    Before the French decided to delay the vote, council members said after closed-door talks that Russia, China and Algeria appeared to back the US approach.


    "Sudan refuses trying
    its nationals before
    the ICC"

    Khidhr Harun
    Sudan's Ambassador to US

    The nine council members that have ratified the ICC treaty - Argentina, Benin, Brazil, Britain, Denmark, France, Greece, Romania and Tanzania - expressed support for the French draft.


    Japan and the Philippines were uncertain, they said.


    The ICC, the world's first permanent tribunal for genocide, war crimes and mass human-rights violations, was recommended as the best place to try Darfur suspects by an international commission set up at the council's request.


    But the Bush administration proposed a new UN-African Union tribunal as an alternative. Nigeria, president of the African Union, then suggested a special panel to both hear war crimes cases and foster reconciliation in Sudan.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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