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Europe

Sudan at Center of EU Meeting

EU foreign ministers will meet in Brussels on Monday to deal with the situation in Sudan. They plan to harmonize their policy towards the Sudanese government that's accused of doing too little to end the Darfur crisis.

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Will ministers decide to send troops and not just food?

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer on Sunday strongly advocated political sanctions against Khartoum, should the government there not step up efforts to disarm the Janjaweed militia and bring them before the courts.

In an interview with German public television, Fischer said on Sunday that since 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. On the other hand, it’s easier now for humanitarian aid organizations to do their job on the ground, but that’s certainly not enough."

Fischer added that countries were cooperating on a UN resolution on Sudan, calling on the Sudanese government to disarm the militia, bring their leaders to justice and stop the killing.

"We’ll no doubt keep up the pressure on the government together with our European partners and the United States,” he said.

Fischer and Powell coordinate

In a telephone conversation on Sunday with his US counterpart Colin Powell, Fischer agreed that Khartoum should face international sanctions, if it didn’t live up to its commitments.

Flüchtlinge in Sudan

Sudanese refugee children walk past a dead donkey

Powell and Fischer said no more time must be wasted to end the conflict which has left some 30,000 people dead, one million people displaced and another 2.2 million living in desperate need of food and medicine.

“The Sudanese government knows full well that the international community is no longer willing to just look on," Fischer said."The UN resolution is in the making, and Sudan is facing political sanctions. Having said that, I want to emphasize that we’ll of course step up our efforts in the humanitarian field.”

Ahead of the EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels, the Sudanese foreign minister Mustafa Osman Ismail met with EU foreign policy chief Javier 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.

Britain favors sending troops

EU foreign ministers will have to debate the option of sending peace-enforcing troops to the Darfur region. Britain seems to favour such a move. At the weekend, a top military commander said he could muster 5,000 troops for a Darfur mission. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has not ruled out military intervention.

The position of the German government on such a mission remains unclear. Fischer wants to place responsibility for peace-keeping with the Organization of African Unity (OAU). But Greens co-leader Angelika Beer said earlier this year that the option of contributing troops to an international peace-keeping force should be left open.

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