United Nations, 31 July 2004 (RFE/RL) -- With China and Pakistan abstaining, the Security Council voted on Friday 13-0 to warn of possible action against Sudan, including economic penalties and severing diplomatic relations, if the country does not make progress on achieving its pledges on the Darfur crisis.
John Danforth, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, noted in his remarks after the vote that the purpose of the resolution was not to punish the government of Sudan, but to relieve the suffering in Darfur. That's the troubled province where at least 30,000 civilians are estimated to have been killed and more than one million displaced in the past 17 months due to militia attacks and fighting between government forces and two rebel groups.
"The government of Sudan has left us no choice. It has done the unthinkable. It has fostered an armed attack on its own civilian population. It has created a humanitarian disaster. So the resolution just adopted is our necessary response if we are to help save the people of Darfur."
"The last thing that we wanted to do was lay the groundwork for sanctions," Danforth said. "But the government of Sudan has left us no choice. It has done the unthinkable. It has fostered an armed attack on its own civilian population. It has created a humanitarian disaster. So the resolution just adopted is our necessary response if we are to help save the people of Darfur."
Danforth's British counterpart, Emyr Jones Parry, said the Security Council's action should send a strong message to the leaders of Sudan, who have accused the United States of interfering in their country's domestic affairs: "This resolution is a further vital step forward in the [Security] Council's consideration of Darfur. It builds on some positive steps which have been taking place, but it underlines the need for the government of Sudan to implement all the commitments it has already made to the United Nations' secretary-general."
The Sudanese government rejected the resolution on 30 July. In a statement, Information Minister Al-Zahawi Ibrahim Malik called the measure "misguided." The secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Mussa, also said he opposes threats of sanctions, saying they would achieve nothing.
The three African countries who are currently members of the UN Security Council -- Algeria, Angola, and Benin -- displayed rare unity in supporting the resolution.
But Sudan's permanent representative to the UN, Elatih Muhammad Ahmad Erwa, said African countries should have been allowed to play a more prominent role: "The reality within the resolution is that the resolution is actually taking the action from the African Union because there are other elements that have been suggested in the resolution that they should go within the African position on how to tackle the disarmament of the militias and at the same time control the rebels. Because without the cease-fire, without adherence to that cease-fire, it will be very difficult to disarm anybody."
The resolution implements an immediate weapons embargo on all armed groups in Darfur, where government forces and Arab militias have been battling a rebellion from several African tribes. But Sudanese security forces, accused of protecting the Janjawid militias, are excluded.
France's UN ambassador, Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, said the resolution reflects a two-pronged approach: "[This] is a policy with two aspects. One is to put strong pressure on the government of Sudan, and at the same time engage in dialogue with this government. So these two aspects are in the resolution."
The 13-0 vote came after the United States, facing considerable opposition, deleted the word "sanctions" and substituted a reference to a section of the UN Charter permitting punitive measures.