UNITED NATIONS – The United States will seek a U.N. Security Council vote next week on a resolution to impose the first-ever sanctions on participants in the Darfur conflict in western Sudan, U.S. officials said Friday.
The United States will push ahead with the bid to sanction four men, despite opposition from Russia and China, said Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations.
Russia and China say that the sanctions might complicate Darfur peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria, where negotiators are working to beat an April 30 deadline.
U.S. officials said they hope to ease the Russian and Chinese concerns — and counter the possibility that they could veto the resolution — by having the council approve a statement expressing support for the Abuja talks.
The statement would be considered for approval by the U.N. Security Council at the same time as the sanctions resolution, possibly Monday or Tuesday.
The fighting in Darfur began when rebels from black African tribes took up arms in February 2003, complaining of discrimination and oppression by Sudan's Arab-dominated government. The government is accused of unleashing Arab tribal militia known as the Janjaweed against civilians in a campaign of murder, rape and arson.
At least 180,000 people have died — many from hunger and disease — and 2 million people have been displaced in the vast, arid region of western Sudan.
An April 2004 Darfur cease-fire has been all but ignored, and seven rounds of talks since then have yielded little progress.
The four men who face sanctions have not been publicly named, but diplomats identified them as Gaffar Mahammed Elhassan, former commander of the Sudanese air force's western region; Sheikh Musa Hilal, a Janjaweed chief of the Jalul tribe in North Darfur; and two rebel commanders — Adam Yacub Shant of the Sudan Liberation Army and Gabril Abdul Kareem Badri of the National Movement for Reform and Development.
China's U.N. Ambassador, Wang Guangya, said Thursday that he still believed the timing was not right for the U.S. sanctions proposal. He was traveling Friday and not available for comment.
Russia's ambassador, Andrey Denisov, has left the U.N. to take a job at the Foreign Ministry and his deputies could not be reached for comment.
The United States introduced the sanctions resolution on Tuesday, minutes after the top African Union mediator at the Abuja talks said the warring factions have their best chance yet to reach a peace deal by April 30, though no side has offered a major concession yet.
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton had said he would wait to hear the Russian and Chinese arguments before deciding when to seek a vote on the sanctions. He was apparently unconvinced.