- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The United States yesterday called for U.N. sanctions on Sudan and threatened to impose new unilateral penalties in response to Khartoum’s decision to back away from an agreement to allow a U.N.-led peacekeeping force into Darfur.

The State Department said it would discuss a U.N. Security Council resolution with British diplomats, but declined to provide details about the possible sanctions.

“We need to look at what kinds of measures we can take to try and encourage a change of heart by the Sudanese government,” department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters. “This, frankly, is an issue that needs to come before the council, so we’ll be talking in the coming days with the British government as well as others about how the council should respond to that.”

The United Nations said that Sudanese President Omar Bashir, who had resisted a U.N. three-phase plan to send a 20,000-strong U.N.-led peacekeeping force to Darfur, finally agreed to it in late December. Lt. Gen. Bashir’s letter was somewhat vague on the third phase, but he endorsed the first two stages and a compromise hybrid U.N.-African Union (AU) force.

“The first phase, a $21 million light-support package already under way, provides for supplying U.N. military advisers, police officers and civilian officials, as well as equipment to the existing understaffed AU monitoring mission in Darfur,” the United Nations said.

Last week, however, Lt. Gen. Bashir sent another letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in which he rejected many of the original provisions, including U.N. command and helicopters.

The State Department expressed outrage, saying he was cherry picking and trying to buy time.

“The international community has shown great patience with Sudan,” Mr. Casey said. “Our patience has largely run out, particularly in light of these new delaying tactics.”

Andrew Natsios, special U.S. envoy for Darfur, said in a conference call with aid groups yesterday that Washington could soon tighten already harsh sanctions against Sudan. These would include travel bans and confiscating the savings accounts of three individuals in Sudan, two of them politicians accused of committing atrocities and the other a rebel leader.

“We are consulting with the British now about what we might be able to do in terms of an additional Security Council resolution on Sudan,” Mr. Casey said.

More than 200,000 lives in Darfur have been lost and more than 2 million people have been displaced since the conflict began four years ago.

The U.N. Human Rights Council this week accused Lt. Gen. Bashir’s government of crimes against humanity for its actions in Darfur, where an Arab militia armed and funded by Khartoum has been accused of widespread atrocities against the region’s ethnic African population.

The Security Council adopted a resolution last year demanding that Sudan allow the United Nations to bolster the underfunded AU monitoring force in Darfur.

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