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Europe

EU Threatens Sudan with Sanctions

EU foreign ministers said Monday they would push for UN sanctions against Sudan if the country does not act to end the conflict raging in its western Darfur region.

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Sudanese refugees from the Darfur region await medical aid

At a meeting in Brussels on Monday, the EU's 25 foreign ministers said in a draft statement they were "alarmed by reports of massive human rights violations" perpetrated by pro-government Arab militias, "including systematic rape of women."

The foreign ministers said they expect the government in Khartoum to ensure that violations cease "with immediate effect" or the EU would take "appropriate steps."

Though the word "sanctions" wasn't specifically mentioned in the draft statement, the EU said it had started drawing up a list of Janjaweed Arab militia 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 those persons or suspend them from office and to bring them to justice."

"The Sudanese government has to deliver"

Joschka Fischer in Khartum

German Foriegn Minister Joschka Fischer, left, meets his Sudanese counterpart Mostafa Osman Ismail in Khartoum.

"They need to be disarmed and the responsible need to go to trial," German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, back from a recent trip to Sudan, said. "Unity in the international community is very, very important," Fischer added. "The Sudanese government has to deliver."

Speaking on German television earlier on Sunday, Fischer said his return from Khartoum he’d been following very closely the Sudanese government’s efforts to end the crisis in Darfur. He said that despite the promises made by the Sudanese president and the foreign minister, a solution to the conflict was not yet in sight.

“Violence continues in the region," he said. "I’ve heard terrible reports about looting and burning in villages, about rape on a massive scale," Fischer said. "We’ll no doubt keep up the pressure on the government together with our European partners and the United States,” he added.

More than 1 million people displaced

Flüchtlinge aus dem Sudan in Tschad

A Sudanese refugee child prepares in the desert outside Tine on the Chad side of the Sudan border.

The conflict in Sudan's western Darfur region began in February 2003 with a rebel uprising against Khartoum, protesting that the largely black African region had been ignored by the Arab government.

Up to 30,000 people, most of them black Africans, have been killed in Darfur, and an estimated 2.2 million in urgent need of food and medical attention.

EU foreign ministers on Monday also urged Sudan to admit more aid workers to provide emergency food and shelter for more than 1 million people displaced in Darfur.

"The (humanitarian) situation is slightly better, but that doesn't mean the problem is solved," said EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. "The risk is very high for a potential catastrophe."

The EU, the United States and humanitarian groups have accused the Sudanese government of backing the militias -- a claim denied by Khartoum.

Khartoum rejects "genocide" charge

Ahead of the EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels, the Sudanese foreign minister Mustafa Osman Ismail met with Solana, claiming that his government was doing what was expected of it by the international community.

Ismail said sanctions against his country would therefore send out the wrong signal. He added that increased dialogue would be the better option to get on top of the crisis.

The US Congress passed a resolution last week describing as "genocide" the atrocities committed in Darfur.

But Ismail rejected the charge.

"What is happening in Darfur is not genocide. It is a humanitarian crisis provoked by fighting which is not our fault ... the Sudanese government did not start the fighting," he told Belgian daily De Staandard.

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