- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 14, 2004

NEW YORK — The United States yesterday softened its threat of sanctions against Sudan’s oil industry in a new U.N. draft resolution demanding a halt to the violence in Darfur.

Washington has been seeking an embargo against Sudan’s oil industry if it fails to stop the violence against civilians in the country’s desolate western region and cooperate fully with the African Union to expand the latter’s monitoring effort in the area.

The threat of sanctions was necessary, diplomats said, to compel Khartoum to cooperate. But a tough oil embargo was vehemently opposed by China, which had threatened a rare Security Council veto, as well as Russia, Pakistan and other council members. Many of them buy Sudanese oil.

Out of sensitivity to China’s concerns, none of the Security Council drafts has explicitly embargoed Sudanese oil. Instead they referred to Article 41 of the U.N. Charter, which allows the council to impose nonmilitary measures.

The latest draft warns that the council “shall consider taking additional measures [under Article 41] such as actions to affect Sudan’s petroleum sector.” Earlier language said the council “will take further actions including measures … with regard to the petroleum sector.”

The new language preserves the possibility of banning travel and freezing the assets of Sudanese officials, as well as other individuals to obtain “full compliance or full cooperation” with demands for an end to the killing in Darfur.

The United States also continues to seek a U.N. commission of inquiry to determine whether genocide and other violations of humanitarian law have been committed by Sudanese government forces and their Janjaweed paramilitary allies.

On Monday, the European Union endorsed the need for an independent inquiry, in part to confirm a charge of genocide leveled last week by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

U.N. diplomats were slow to respond to the new language last night, saying they had not yet seen the new draft.

The World Health Organization on Monday said that as many as 10,000 displaced civilians in Darfur are now dying of disease each month, and put the toll of the 19-month conflict at nearly 50,000 dead.

The Sudanese government yesterday rejected the estimate, saying that the international community had inflated the numbers.

“I do not think this assessment is correct,” said Minister of Humanitarian Affairs Ibrahim Hamid, speaking to reporters after meeting with Andrew Natsios, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Mr. Hamid did not offer his own estimate of the death toll but insisted: “The death rate is decreasing. … We have standards by which we measure the health situation … and it is normal.”

The Chinese indicated yesterday that they would not accept any reference to sanctions.

“Under the current situation, to exert pressure and threaten to adopt sanctions will serve nothing but make the Darfur issue more complicated,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman told reporters yesterday.

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