Sudan fury over genocide claim as US seeks sanctions

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The Independent Online

America's declaration that the Sudanese government and its Arab militias are committing genocide in the Darfur region caused predictable outrage in Khartoum yesterday.

America's declaration that the Sudanese government and its Arab militias are committing genocide in the Darfur region caused predictable outrage in Khartoum yesterday.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell's statement that "genocide may still be occurring" in the country was flatly rejected. At the same time, aid agency Oxfam was warning that tens of thousands of new refugees were on the move in Darfur.

Sudan said Mr Powell's statement was a "big mistake" and warned that it could wreck peace talks being mediated by African states.

Oxfam said in a statement that Greda camp in southern Darfur "has been overwhelmed by fresh arrivals fleeing renewed violence".

The agency said that the camp, which housed 10,000 displaced people two weeks ago, had grown to more than 40,000 people, with more fearful people arriving everyday.

"Literally tens of thousands of people have poured into the camp in recent days and the flow still hasn't stopped," said Gemma Swart, an Oxfam aid worker in Greda camp.

Sudan's Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail also accused Mr Powell of using the Darfur crisis for political ends in the US presidential election. Mr Ismail told the BBC that the American statement was aimed at winning African-American votes in November's election.

America's failure to take action to stop the genocide in Rwanda ten years ago has haunted successive US administrations. Washington is now seeking a new UN resolution that threatens Sudan with sanctions. More African Union monitors should also be sent to Darfur, the US says.

Washington says that Khartoum is failing to prevent atrocities against civilians by the pro-government Janjaweed Arab militia. Its call for more monitors won widespread support at the UN Security Council, but China, Pakistan and Algeria are reluctant to support sanctions. Mr Powell said that the US view that genocide was occurring in Darfur was based on interviews with more than 1,800 refugees who had fled Darfur into neighbouring Chad.

He told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "We concluded that genocide has been committed in Darfur, and that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility."

The testimonies, collected by US State Department investigators, showed a pattern of violence which was co-ordinated, not random, Mr Powell said.

Neither Britain, the EU, nor the African Union have used the term genocide about Darfur, and the Khartoum government sought to exploit that weakness yesterday. The country's Foreign Affairs Minister Najib Abdul Wahab said the conflict was a serious confrontation between farmers and cattle breeders, which he said the government had been unable to handle because Darfur's infrastructure was weakened by rebel groups.

Meanwhile, a Sudanese parliamentary delegation has accused the US of leading a global hate campaign against the Sudanese government.

The US is to ask the Security Council to vote on its new draft resolution next week. The proposed resolution says Sudan has failed to fully comply with a previous UN resolution which was passed in July. It gives the government a new 30-day deadline. If Khartoum does still not comply, sanctions may be introduced "including with regard to the petroleum sector".

Sudan currently produces about 320,000 barrels of oil per day. The resolution also calls for:

¿ the expansion of the number and mandate of the current 300 African Union troops in the country

¿ international overflights in Darfur to monitor what is happening, and an end to Sudanese military flights there

¿ UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to determine whether acts of genocide have been carried out and to identify the perpetrators.