The vote on the US-drafted resolution calling for an expanded African Union (AU) monitoring force and an inquiry into human rights abuses including possible genocide was passed 11-0 on Saturday with four abstentions.
China, Russia, Algeria and Pakistan abstained. China had earlier threatened to veto the measure, but abstained instead after its UN envoy, Wang Guangya consulted with the US ambassador John Danforth until the last minute.
“We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater,” Wang said.
The resolution says Sudan has to cooperate with an expanded AU monitoring mission in Darfur, where an estimated 50,000 people have been killed and 1.4 million forced to flee to their homes.
The conflict has killed 50,000
It specifically states if Sudan does not comply with its demands or cooperate “with the expansion and extension” of the AU mission, the council “shall consider taking additional measures … such as actions to affect Sudan’s petroleum sector and the Government of Sudan or individual members of the Government of Sudan”.
The UN hopes the AU mission will grow to 3000 troops and observers on the ground in Darfur will serve as a bulwark to further abuse.
Khartoum reacted angrily to the resolution, saying UN sanctions would lead “Sudanese society to a complete destruction”.
“Imposing economic sanctions, this means that actually you condemn the whole society, this means that you are actually leading this society to a complete destruction,” State Minister for Humanitarian Affairs Muhammad Yusuf Abd Allah said.
“Therefore I believe that if economic sanctions are imposed on Sudan, only the Sudanese people are going to be penalised and that should not be the intention of the Security Council,” he said.
Resolution 1564 also calls for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to set up a commission that would investigate human rights abuses and determine if genocide had occurred in the western Sudan region.
“We act today because the Government of Sudan has failed to fully comply with our previous resolution, adopted on 30 July,” Danforth said. “The crisis in Darfur is uniquely grave. It is the largest humanitarian disaster in the world.”
The conflict in Darfur broke out in February 2003 when rebels rose up against Khartoum to demand an end to the political and economic marginalization of their region.
The US accuses the Sudanese government of employing heavy-handed measures, including unleashing the Arab militias, to quell the rebellion.
Rebels not forthcoming
Rebel leaders were described as
Khartoum has persistently denied the charges as baseless and has pointed to the southern Sudan rebels as the source of upheaval in the Darfur region.
On 18 September, UN special envoy to Darfur Jan Pronk said the Sudanese government was willing to negotiate in the Abuja talks on the crisis in the Darfur region, but the rebels proved more difficult.
Khartoum had become more cooperative and was still willing to talk to the rebels, Pronk said.
“I do have the impression that the government was quite forthcoming. They accepted the talks without any precondition. They’ve accepted the agenda, they accepted any venue,” he added.
“The rebels were a bit more difficult – they had preconditions, but anyway they came – and at a certain moment perhaps the rebels felt it was no longer necessary to negotiate,” Pronk said.
Qutbi Al-Mahdi, political adviser to the Sudanese president, blamed the new US draft resolution on Darfur for the rebels’ stance.