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Danforth moves swiftly on Sudan


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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- On his first day as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Danforth demanded the Sudanese government act to improve the situation in the strife-torn Darfur region.

Danforth warned that "the government of Sudan is clearly on a short leash."

Fighting between Arab and African tribes in the western Sudan region has killed at least 70 people and displaced thousands more this week, a member of parliament for the area said Wednesday. (Full story)

Danforth said the United States would watch closely to see if the Sudanese would follow through on recent agreements with the United Nations on Darfur.

The former U.S. envoy to Sudan hinted U.N. sanctions could be imposed if the Sudanese government does not act to stop attacks on civilians in that region.

The U.N. Security Council is currently considering a U.S. proposed resolution that would impose travel and arms sanctions on the Janjaweed militia.

The current draft also gives the council 30 days to decide to expand sanctions to the Sudanese government or other groups if there is no action.

Danforth called the situation a "matter of urgency" and said the United States would be watching for action by the Sudanese government "this week."

Danforth added, "we're wondering if the government of Sudan is just using more words, more promises with a view that delay means more death."

Negotiations on the draft resolution are to resume Thursday afternoon, but no date has been set for a resolution vote.

Sudan has long been wracked by a civil war, and the conflict in Darfur exploded last year when rebels attacked government property, accusing the government of neglecting mostly black Darfur in favor of the country's Arab population.

The government responded by setting up Arab militias, the Janjaweed, to put down the rebellion. The Sudanese government and the militias are fighting two rebel groups, the United Nations says.

The Janjaweed militias, however, are accused of waging an ethnic cleansing campaign to kill or expel black Africans from the vast and remote section of the country.

Danforth spoke after a closed-door council meeting in which U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told members that pressure should be maintained on the government of Sudan to end the crisis in the Darfur region, and encouraged council members to move forward on a resolution.

Annan, briefing via videophone from Nairobi, also said there was urgent need for funding for humanitarian aid as well as helicopters and other non-food items.

The U.N. says $350 million is needed to get humanitarian supplies to the more than 1.2-million displaced people scattered in camps throughout Darfur and 150,000 refugees in Chad.

U.N. humanitarian coordinator Jan Egeland said Wednesday that the U.N. has received only about a third of what it needs. "This is not a Christmas wish," but urgently needed money for basic aid, he said. Lack of resources was becoming a more serious constraint than restrictions on access from the Sudanese government, he said.

Annan told the council that, in his talks with Sudanese refugees in Sudan and Chad, he heard similar stories on why they fled and added that "every one of them expressed extreme distrust of both government troops and Arab militias, particularly the Janjaweed."

Annan said, "They told me of ground attacks by the army and the militias. They told me how these operations were followed by horrendous clean-up attacks by the Janjaweed, replete with killing, plundering, burning and widespread rape."

There are concerns that the crisis in Darfur has created tensions between Sudan and its neighbor Chad. Annan told the council that President Idris Deby of Chad was "deeply concerned" that the fighting in the Darfur region could spill over into his country.

"He was particularly concerned by the incursions of the Janjaweed into Chadian territory to attack fleeing refugees and the Chadian communities there," Annan said.

Annan visited refugee camps in Sudan and Chad between June 29 and July 3 and got promises from Sudanese officials to provide security for refugees and speed relief to Darfur.

According to the agreement, the Sudanese government will send in additional troops to Darfur "immediately," will disarm the Janjaweed militia and will deploy a "strong, credible and respected police force" to protect refugees from attack from militias.

The government also agreed to suspend for a 90-day "emergency" period all visa and travel restrictions on international humanitarian workers.


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