BRUSSELS, Belgium — European Union foreign ministers are to join the U.S. and push for United Nations sanctions against Sudan if its government does not move to end the bloodshed in the troubled Darfur region.
The EU ministers, in a draft statement, said they would take “appropriate further steps” if Sudan does not take action to end the fighting and resume peace talks with rebels.
An attempt by the African Union to host talks between rebels and the Sudanese government was suspended earlier this month when rebels walked out after Khartoum rejected some of their preconditions.
While not using the word sanctions, EU officials said the 25-member bloc would push for such a move by the U.N. Security Council if Sudan did not cooperate with efforts to end violence that has killed 30,000 in Darfur and caused 1 million to flee.
Some 2.2 million are in urgent need of food or medical attention, aid groups estimate.
“What is most important is to continue pressure on the Sudanese government,” Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, told Reuters.
French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier was visiting el-Fasher, capital of North Darfur state, Monday.
Meanwhile a group calling itself Mohammed’s army called on Muslims to prepare to fight Western forces sent on any mission to western Sudan.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has not ruled out military intervention in Darfur, where the U.S. Congress has labeled as genocide a campaign by Arab militias against black Africans.
The United States has also circulated a draft U.N. resolution threatening sanctions against Khartoum if it does not prosecute the leaders of the militia.(Full story)
The violence in Darfur 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 EU cited “grave concern” at events in Darfur, saying they were “alarmed by reports of massive human rights violations” perpetrated by the Janjaweed militia rebels, “including systematic rape of women.”
“The risk is very high for a potential catastrophe,” EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, told The Associated Press.
The foreign ministers said they “expect the government of Sudan to ensure that these violations stop with immediate effect.”
Backing its threat of sanctions, the EU said it had started preparation “of a list of Janjeweed leaders responsible for breaches and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, and those guiding and supporting them.”
The EU said the Sudanese government “will be pressed to arrest these persons or suspend them form office and to bring them to justice.”
The 25 foreign ministers also urged Sudan to admit more aid workers to provide emergency food and shelter for more than a million people displaced in Darfur.
The EU, the United States and humanitarian groups have accused the Sudanese government of backing the militias — a claim the national leadership in Khartoum denies.
EU officials said they did not plan to cut off million it gives Sudan in development aid, which is focused primarily at the country’s poorest people.
The EU earlier this year, said it would give 12 million euros ($14.6 million) to pay for an African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, which would be deployed once a lasting cease-fire takes hold there. The AU is sending 300 troops and 150 unarmed observers.
Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail, who spent the weekend meeting EU officials, rejected the U.S. Congress label of “genocide” on the conflict in Darfur.
“What is happening in Darfur is no genocide,” he told Belgian daily De Standaard in an interview, saying electioneering U.S. politicians were exaggerating the issue.
The minister said Khartoum was making “serious efforts” to correct the situation and that progress in terms of safety and humanitarian aid had been achieved.
“We are doing what is right and we will continue to do what is right,” Ismail said.
In its warning of action against western forces, the previously unknown group said in a statement obtained by Reuters: “We have seen and heard of the American and British interference in Darfur and there is no doubt that this is a crusader war that bears no relation to the citizens of Darfur.”
“We call upon you to speedily head towards Darfur and dig deep into the ground mass graves prepared for the crusader army,” it added.
Witness said young Sudanese men were handing out the statements to worshippers at the central mosque in the capital, Khartoum.
So far neither the Bush administration nor the U.N. has said the conflict is genocide — a step which would authorize other nations to intervene under international law and enable war crimes charges to br brought in U.N. courts.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said last month he was not ready to describe the situation in Darfur “as genocide or ethnic cleansing” but he did call it “a tragic humanitarian situation” and raised the possibility of international intervention.
# The African Union (AU) says it is trying to revive stalled peace talks between warring parties in Darfur — though no gathering is expected this week (Full story)
# An aid flight from the global charity Oxfam carrying sanitation and water equipment landed in Sudan’s Darfur region Monday. The plane left Britain late Sunday for Nyala in southern Darfur, from where its cargo of pumps, purification chemicals, pipework and latrines are to be trucked some 15 km (9 miles) to Kalma refugee camp, home to more than 60,000 people.