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Europe

Europe Applies Pressure to Sudan

Germany and the US agreed to keep up pressure on Sudan on the eve of a meeting in which European ministers will discuss the humanitarian crisis in the western Darfur region.

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Sudan is becoming a humanitarian nightmare.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer on Sunday agreed in a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Colin Powell that the international community must continue applying pressure to Sudan's government to end the conflict in the impoverished region, where some 30,000 people have been killed and many more forced to flee.

According to a statement from the German Foreign Ministry, they decided "sanctions will be unavoidable if the government does not meet its self-set commitments in Dafur."

In an interview with German public broadcaster ZDF, Fischer said a US-drafted UN resolution threatening sanctions was one way to force Khartoum to stop the violence. UN Security Council members China and Russia, however, have held back the resolution because they object to the threat of sanctions.

Strong words

Although France, one of two EU members on the Security Council, has been hesitant to adopt more forceful tactics, Britain has signaled its willingness to step up the pressure on Khartoum.

A top British military commander has said he could muster 5,000 troops for a Darfur mission if it becomes necessary. Prime Minister Tony Blair has not ruled out military intervention.

Blair has called on the international community to take moral responsibility for resolving the crisis and is sending Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to the region next month.

France, which used its Security Council seat to block a UN resolution authorizing war against Iraq last year, plans to send Foreign Minister Michel Barnier on a three-day African trip that includes Darfur and is meant to show support for a planned African Union mission.

Joschka Fischer in den Sudan

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Sudanese State Minister Nagieb Al-Khier, in Khartoum, July 11, 2004.

Fischer, who has been campaigning for a permanent German seat on the Security Council, was in Sudan earlier this month and has been a strong advocate of increasing international involvement in solving the conflict. He has told Sudanese officials that Germany would withhold all further aid unless the government acts to resolve the crisis.

EU issues cautious warning

The Netherlands, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, gave Sudan a cautious warning to stick to commitments to disarm the Janjaweed Arab militias accused of pursuing a scorched earth policy that the US Congress has labeled genocide.

Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot told his Sudanese counterpart that sanctions were not yet needed, but he said the international community would eventually impose them if Khartoum did not act.

"If the situation does not visibly improve, then sanctions will almost surely be brought by the international community," Dutch news agency ANP quoted Bot as saying.

EU foreign ministers will meet on Monday to discuss the situation in Darfur and the possibility of European action in the region.

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