Annan urges action over Darfur

Speaking as council members debated a new draft of the resolution, Mr Annan pointed out that civilians are being attacked and fleeing their homes “even as we speak”, despite a Sudanese government pledge to end the violence.

“I have urged the Security Council to act on the draft resolution without delay, and to be as united as possible.”

The US said it wants a vote to be taken by Saturday on the draft that threatens sanctions against Khartoum if it fails to rein in Arab militias, known as Janjaweed, accused of murder, rape and other atrocities against black Africans in the region.

Some members, including China, have previously threatened to veto the resolution.

Chinese ambassador Wang Guangya declined to say the veto was still on the table after Annan delivered his message, and US ambassador John Danforth said he now expected a vote on the measure on Saturday.

“I think it was a very important statement by the secretary general and it helped create a sense of urgency,” Danforth told reporters after a council meeting. “We have to act very quickly.”

He said the US is expecting “at least” nine votes in favour of the measure, the minimum number needed to pass a resolution as long as none of the five permanent members decides to veto.

The new resolution being discussed calls for an enlarged African Union monitoring force in Darfur, and also asks Mr Annan to set up an international commission to investigate whether human rights violations in the region amount to genocide.

After a similar resolution on Sudan passed the council in July 13-0, a smaller number this time around could send the wrong message to Sudan, one council diplomat said.

The resolution hangs the threat of sanctions against Sudan’s oil industry if Khartoum does not disarm the rebels to stop the violence, which has left an estimated 50,000 people dead and displaced 1.4 million more.

“If this resolution is adopted I shall do so with all speed,” Annan said.

“No matter how the crimes that are being committed against civilians in Darfur are characterised or legally defined, it is urgent to take action now,” he said. “Time is of the essence.”

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