UNITED NATIONS (AFP) -The United States submitted a draft resolution in the UN Security Council urging targeted sanctions against four Sudanese officials blamed for the bloodshed in Darfur.
The text, which did not name the four individuals or give their rank, was circulated among the council’s 15 members as the chief mediator in Darfur peace talks said that the conflict was “ripe for resolution” in view of Khartoum’s new flexibility.
The sanctions involve an assets freeze and travel restrictions on the four persons for their alleged role in the Darfur violence, which Washington calls genocide.
They were to have been adopted at the end of a 48-hour silence procedure launched by the council’s sanctions committee, which expired at 4:00 pm (2000 GMT) Monday, provided no council member objected.
But Russia and China said Monday that the time was not right for the sanctions in view of ongoing African Union-brokered Darfur peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria.
US Ambassador John Bolton therefore introduced the resolution Tuesday to circumvent the opposition from Russia and China with the hope that the two countries would not veto the text.
“We are going to talk about it tomorrow,” Bolton said. A resolution requires nine votes and no veto from the five permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.
The US draft said that the targets were one official linked to the Sudanese Air Force, another to the Jalul Tribe in northern Darfur and two others to two Darfur rebel groups, the Sudanese Liberation Army and the National Movement for Reform and Development.
Bolton said their names would be released once a consensus emerges on the draft and it is ready for adoption.
The names were submitted by the council’s sanctions committee more than a year after the council adopted Resolution 1591, which authorizes measures against people committing atrocities or undermining peace efforts in Sudan’s western region.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said: “I have to remind people that there have been heinous crimes that were committed (in Darfur). It is time to start to hold people responsible for those crimes and for the actions that they have taken … We believe that it’s time to act.”
But briefing the Security Council on the Abuja peace talks, AU mediator Salim Ahmed Salim of Tanzania said: “The conflict in Darfur… seems at last to be ripe for resolution.”
He told the council that Khartoum was showing some flexibility on the key issues of power and wealth sharing as well as security arrangements.
“For the first time there are intensive bilateral and direct discussions between the parties, as well as meetings facilitated by the (AU) mediation,” he said. “We are hopeful that the differences can be narrowed.”
Asked what impact sanctions might have on the peace process, Salim said: “Sanctions can be an effective instrument in conveying the message, particularly for those who are spoilers of the peace process.”
“But sanctions can also help to harden the position of some of those involved,” he added. “One has to strike the right balance … It is up to the Security Council to say (whether) the sanctions should be imposed.”
Monday, China’s UN envoy Wang Guangya, the president of the council for April, argued that “this is not the right moment” to impose the sanctions in view of the ongoing Abuja talks.
The Abuja talks, now in their seventh round, had until now made little progress but both the United Nations and the African Union are putting pressure on the parties to strike a deal and conclude the talks by the end of this month.
Salim meanwhile pleaded with council members to ensure that once a comprehensive ceasefire accord is signed, they will extend “maximum support to the cash-strapped AU peacekeeping force in Darfur (AMIS) to enable it to cope with additional responsibilities”.
UN officials are preparing to send peacekeepers to Darfur by the end of the year or at the beginning of 2007 to take over from the AMIS force, which has failed to restore peace in the vast western Sudanese region.
But Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir is strongly opposed to the UN mission.
Three years of fighting between rebels and Khartoum-backed militias in Sudan have left up to 300,000 people dead and two million displaced.