U.N. Vote on Sudan Could Face China Veto

A U.N. Security Council (search) vote on whether to threaten sanctions against Sudan hinged on China and other opponents who fear that the specter of punishment could ruin efforts to end a crisis that has killed more than 50,000 and spawned 1.2 million refugees.

The United States submitted a final draft with final changes Friday, making minor changes in a bid to win support from China and other opponents including Russia.

The last draft still threatens sanctions if the Khartoum government doesn't rein in militias ravaging western Darfur (search) and calls for an international commission to investigate alleged human rights violations and whether or not acts of genocide occurred — two issues raised by the opponents.

U.S. Ambassador John Danforth (search) said the United States had at least nine "yes" votes for the resolution, the minimum needed for adoption, and several council diplomats said there would probably be at least 11 votes in favor.

But it wasn't clear what China, which threatened to veto the original draft, would do about the latest text.

Before the final draft was released, China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said Beijing was concerned that the resolution "will be a recipe for failure for the peace talks" aimed at ending the crisis that has killed more than 50,000 people and forced over 1.2 million to flee their homes.

There were signs Sudan already believed that. The talks in Nigeria collapsed Friday and the two sides said no deal was likely soon. Still, Sudan pledged to stick to the terms of an oft-violated cease-fire agreement for the Darfur region and said it will allow humanitarian agencies unfettered access to the area where tens of thousands have died.

Sudan's government reiterated charges that the U.S. criticism had boosted rebel intransigence at the talks.

"Statements made by senior officials of the USA poisoned the talks environment and sent wrong signals to the rebels who immediately stiffened their positions and contracted sudden disinterest on the talks and discussions and adopted a negative attitude," the government statement said.

Sudan's government and government-allied Arab militia are accused by the United Nations, United States and others of waging a campaign of killing, torture, rape and arson to drive out Darfur's non-Arab farmers.

The United States and some aid groups say genocide has already been committed in Darfur, a charge the government denies. Tens of thousands are already dead in Darfur and 1.2 million people have fled their homes, including 200,000 in refugee camps in neighboring Chad.

The violence broke out with the emergence of two rebel groups after February 2003.

The United Nations calls it the worst humanitarian crisis anywhere.

The revised version of the U.N. draft — the third the United States has submitted in as many days — came a day after U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for immediate U.N. action to halt attacks against civilians in western Darfur, which he said were continuing despite the government's promise to rein in the marauding militias.

China, Russia, Pakistan and Algeria have voiced concerns at including even the possibility of sanctions, stressing that the impetus should be on getting the government to cooperate and avoiding language that complicate efforts to resolve the conflict and provide humanitarian relief.

"I understand the feeling of the secretary-general. There is an urgency in the sense of finding a solution to the problem of Sudan," said China's Wang. "But as I see it, there are many problems in Sudan ... The essence of the problem is peace."

Wang declined to say whether his government would veto or abstain on voting on the resolution in earlier form.

The draft resolution strongly endorses an expanded African Union force and threatens sanctions, singling out the "petroleum sector," if the Sudanese government doesn't curb the Arab militias and start to disarm them and punish the perpetrators — and if it doesn't cooperate with a beefed-up African Union monitoring force.

The final draft states that the Security Council will make a decision on any further measures after consultation with African Union, giving the 53-nation body additional input.

It also expanded a clause which acknowledged some steps taken by the Khartoum government to facilitate access for humanitarian workers in western Darfur.