UN snubbed as Darfur peace talks collapse

The crisis in Darfur intensified yesterday, as peace talks between the Sudanese govern- ment and rebel forces collapsed and China rejected a watered-down draft of a UN Security Council resolution.

The US-backed resolution is a modified version of an earlier draft, which contained a direct threat of sanctions if Sudan failed to disarm the Janjaweed, the pro-government Arab militias. The resolution was re-worded on Tuesday in the hope of satisfying China, Algeria and Pakistan, which oppose the idea of sanctions against Sudan.

China last night, however, threatened to veto the resolution. Pakistan and Algeria also opposed the new draft and Russia and Brazil had some objections, diplomats said after initial negotiations. European nations support the resolution.

The US wants a vote by tomorrow and probably has 10 sure votes; a minimum of nine are needed, but China could still veto the decision.

"It would be difficult for us to support it as it would for a number of other delegations," China's UN ambassador, Wang Guangya, told Reuters. "The approach has to be changed." He said negotiations were still ongoing and he would not rule out a compromise.

The new draft says the UN "shall consider" punitive measures, such as actions "to affect Sudan's petroleum sector", if atrocities in Darfur continue.

Meanwhile, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), one of the rebel forces in Darfur, walked out of peace talks hosted by the African Union in Abuja, saying they were unable to reach an agreement with the Khartoum government over security issues. The talks had only just restarted after a three-week postponement, but are now likely to be delayed again for another four weeks.

The rebels are keen for the international community to intervene directly in Darfur, and believe that sanctions are more likely to be imposed if peace talks fail repeatedly. They have refused to disarm unless the Janjaweed are disarmed first.

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