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Europe

Unanimity Slows EU Response in Sudan

Lack of agreement keeps the EU from flexing its foreign policy muscles. That is especially apparent in Darfur's humanitarian catastrophe, which has ministers "extremely concerned" but unable to enforce any action.

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The EU must decide in unison how to help Sudanese refugees

While the UN estimates that more than 50,000 people have been killed with another 1.2 million Sudanese forced from their homes since February 2003, the EU foreign ministers have expressed their concern about a situation others believe to be genocide.

But the word genocide has not been uttered by any of the EU's foreign ministers, who will discuss the Darfur situation at their monthly meeting Monday. They know how they label the situation will determine their next actions -- and not all the bloc's governments are ready to take the steps demanded by their UN obligation to stop genocide wherever it occurs.

Joschka Fischer in Khartum

German Foreign Minister Fischer, left, met with Sudanese State Minister Nagieb Al-Khier, in July

"We need to keep up the pressure," German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (photo) said. "If the international community had not reacted so strongly, the humanitarian situation, which had potential to lead to genocide, would be much worse than today's deplorable reality."

The pressure was first put on in July when EU ministers agreed with a UN resolution demanding the Sudanese government disarm the pro-government Janjaweed militia, try militia members for their crimes and protect the Darfur population.

Some EU states call for stronger action

While Germany, France and the Britain would like to join in the United States' call for UN sanctions against Khartoum, political pressure is the best they can achieve because hesitance in Italy, Spain and Greece keeps the EU from being able to demand stronger action. They would rather see the union reinforce its opposition to the situation, a move that others think would play into the Sudanese government's hands.

Flüchtlinge in Darfur

More than 1.2 million Sudanese have been driven from their homes

"I have the feeling that the government of Sudan is at the moment laughing at us, at the international community," said Ana Gomes, a Portuguese member of the European Parliament who recently returned from a fact-finding trip to Darfur. "They know how to read the contradictory signs that were given by the international community in dealing politically with this issue."The EU's mixed signals may come to an end when the ministers' meeting ends, one high-ranking German official in Brussels told Germany's WDR radio station: They may agree to send 25 police to the region.

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