Britain pushes for travel ban on leaders to curb killing in Darfur

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Britain is pushing for a UN travel ban and assets freeze to be applied to named Sudanese government, militia and rebel leaders in the next two weeks in the hope of curbing the killings in Darfur, diplomats said.

"We would expect measures in the next 10 to 14 days," a senior British official said. The Security Council members Britain, France and Denmark are acting now because of a sharp deterioration in the security situation in the western Sudanese region, where about 300,000 people have died as a result of conflict, hunger and disease. The fighting has also spread across the border into Chad.

Although British officials refused to release the names, diplomats said they had taken pains to draw up a "balanced" list of up to eight leaders from both sides in the three-year conflict.

They denied that the names were taken from a list of 17 people already circulating in New York, which includes the Sudanese Interior Minister, the Defence Minister, the director of national intelligence and a commander of the rebel Sudanese Liberation Army.

The measures are to be adopted by the UN sanctions committee for Sudan, which has the same members as the 15-nation UN Security Council. The council approved the principle of travel bans and assets freeze in a resolution in March last year. British diplomats cautioned that resistance from China, which has strong economic ties to Sudan, and Qatar, which is sympathetic to the position of the Muslim leaders in Khartoum, still needed to be overcome.

The UN is also preparing to establish a more robust peacekeeping force of up to 14,000 troops for Darfur at the request of the African Union, whose troops have been struggling to contain the crisis. The AU is expected to formally approach the UN later this month.

The Sudanese government, and allied Arab militia, have been blamed for forcing more than one million people from their homes in Darfur after a rebellion. Negotiations have failed to make any headway.