BRUSSELS, Belgium – European Union (search) foreign ministers urged the United Nations (search) to "immediately investigate" whether atrocities in Sudan's Darfur (search) region constitute genocide, as Washington contends.
The appeal Monday came as U.N. health officials released a survey showing as many as 10,000 refugees from the region are dying from disease and violence every month.
The 25 EU foreign ministers said U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan should open a special inquiry "as soon as possible" into all violations of human rights in Darfur," specifically "acts of genocide."
They added that the investigation was necessary to confirm the U.S. charge of genocide, made last week by Secretary of State Colin Powell who called for the consideration of U.N. sanctions against Sudan.
They added that the investigation was necessary to confirm the U.S. charge of genocide, made last week by Secretary of State Colin Powell who called for the consideration of sanctions against Sudan.
The Security Council is meeting later this week to consider the Darfur question and is expected to approve a new resolution against Sudan.
For its part the EU has refrained from using the word "genocide" to characterize the attacks by government-backed ethnic Arab militias against the region's black African Sudanese.
"Some people call it genocide, some people call it ethnic cleansing, some people call it civil war, some people call it none of the above," British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said. "Whatever it is, it's a desperate situation which requires the urgent attention of the world."
The 19-month conflict has created what the United Nations has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis. About 1.2 million people in the Darfur region have fled their villages and are camped in 129 settlements across an area the size of France. More than 200,000 have fled to neighboring Chad.
His German counterpart, Joschka Fischer, called it "a humanitarian catastrophe with genocidal potential," while French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said there was "massive violation of human rights" occurring.
The foreign ministers said Sudan must stop the fighting and implement a cease-fire or face U.N. sanctions, possibly including an oil embargo.
There is "no indication that the government of Sudan has taken real and verifiable steps to disarm and neutralize" the warring factions, the EU statement said.
Sudan's foreign minister accused the United States of trying to divert attention from fighting in Iraq ahead of the U.S. presidential vote in November.
"This is a politicized agenda for the election," Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said during a trade visit to South Korea. He said Powell's call for the U.S. support for sanctions against Sudan "irrational, unrealistic and unbalanced."
In Khartoum, Sudanese First Vice President Ali Osman Mohammed Taha also described Powell's use of the word "genocide" as part of U.S. election-year politics.
"There is no genocide in Darfur and there is no evidence or even hints or signs of genocide, not even mass killing. The reality is far from mass killing let alone genocide," Taha said at a news conference Monday in the Sudanese capital.
International agencies have said at least 30,000 people have died in the conflict, but a new survey by the U.N. health agency put the figure at 50,000.
The World Health Organization (search) said its survey shows at least 6,000 and as many as 10,000 people are dying in refugee camps every month, most from disease due to the unsanitary conditions.
Half to three-quarters of the deaths among children under five were linked to diarrhea, which is often caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation.
Injury and violence were the cause of about 15 percent of deaths, WHO said.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (search) has warned that the death toll could surge to 350,000 or more if aid doesn't reach some 2 million people soon.