UNITED NATIONS – A divided U.N. Security Council approved a resolution Saturday threatening oil sanctions against Sudan unless the government reins in Arab militias blamed for a 19-month killing and looting spree in Darfur (search) that the United States has called genocide.
The vote was 11-0 with four abstentions — China, Russia, Pakistan and Algeria.
China, a permanent council member, said immediately after the vote that it would veto any future resolution that sought to impose sanctions on Sudan.
"I told the American government that the position of my government on sanctions is a firm one," said China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya (search). "We always believe that sanctions is not a helpful means to achieve political objectives. It will only make matters worse."
The resolution says the council would have to meet again to consider sanctions against Sudan's petroleum sector or other punitive measures if the government doesn't act quickly to stop the violence and bring the perpetrators to justice — or if it doesn't cooperate with an African Union (search) monitoring force.
The resolution strongly endorses the deployment of a beefed-up African Union force with an expanded monitoring mission that would actively try to prevent attacks and mediate to stop the conflict from escalating. More than 50,000 people have already died and over 1.2 million have fled their homes to escape the violence.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who was in the council chamber for the vote, also was authorized to rapidly appoint an international commission to investigate reports of human rights violations in Darfur and determine "whether or not acts of genocide have occurred."
Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Elfatih Erwa called the resolution "unfair," but said his government would implement it despite "the injustices it contains."
Erwa accused the United States of introducing the measure solely to achieve "the political objectives" of President Bush and Congress — a charge immediately rejected by U.S. Ambassador John Danforth.
In an angry rebuttal, Erwa said the U.S. Congress of believing "it is the only conscience of the world, and indeed that they have the divine right to decide on the destinies of peoples."
But, he added, millions of people see "the shortcomings and the faults" of the United States including the killings of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq and the infliction of "torture on prisoners and innocent people in prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo."
Danforth denounced the statement as an "unseemly and uncalled for attack on the United States."
"President Bush's interest in Sudan has been intense, maybe ever since he took office," said Danforth noting that the president appointed him as his envoy to Sudan five days before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "This is not something that comes in an election year. This is something that he has ... been personally involved in for a long, long time."
Wang also said some council members questioned the timing of the resolution in relation "to domestic politics."
The United States revised the resolution three times, each time softening language to try to get broader support and avert a Chinese veto. A resolution adopted by the Security Council on July 30 gave the Sudanese government 30 days to halt attacks by pro-government militias and start disarming them and bringing them to justice.
Opponents argue that the Sudanese government has made progress and that threatening sanctions could antagonize Khartoum and end its cooperation with international efforts to cope with what the United Nations has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
The conflict began when two Darfur rebel groups with roots in the region's ethnic African tribes rose up in February 2003, accusing the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum of neglect and discrimination. The government is accused of trying to suppress the rebellion by backing ethnic Arab herdsmen known as Janjaweed, who long have competed with African villagers over Darfur's scarce resources. The 53-nation African Union has about 80 military observers in Darfur — a region about the size of France — protected by just over 300 soldiers, monitoring a rarely observed cease-fire signed in April by the government and rebels. Sudan has agreed to increased monitoring and the top U.N. envoy in Sudan, Jan Pronk, said earlier this month that more than 3,000 troops are needed.
The council in the latest resolution "declares its grave concern that the government of Sudan has not fully met its obligations."
It also "deplores the recent cease-fire violations by all parties," singling out government helicopter assaults and attacks by the Janjaweed on three villages on Aug. 26, and demands that all armed groups, including the rebels, "cease all violence."