UN condemns Sudan for attack on peacekeepers

The United Nations Security Council opened the door on Friday to new economic, political or military sanctions against Sudan because of an attack by its troops on a UN peacekeeping convoy earlier this week.

The council said it “condemns in the strongest possible terms” Monday’s attack on UN peacekeepers by “elements of the Sudanese armed forces,” saying any such attack is unacceptable. Sudan has acknowledged its troops shot at a UN convoy in West Darfur, damaging an armoured personnel carrier, destroying a fuel tanker truck and severely injuring a Sudanese driver.

Because of the attack, the council said in a statement that it “expresses its readiness to take action against any party that impedes the peace process, humanitarian aid or the deployment” of the UN force, known as Unamid, made up of UN and African Union troops and other personnel.

The UN mission began on January 1 and now stands at about 9 000 peacekeepers. It is supposed to grow to 26 000 and aims at finally deploying a robust force to stop the chaos.

The council also expressed “concern about the deterioration of security and humanitarian conditions in Darfur” and called on nations to contribute the helicopters and other equipment that its peacekeepers lack and need to do their jobs, according a statement read aloud by the council president, Libyan Ambassador Giadalla Ettalhi, after closed-door discussions.

More than 200 000 people have died in Darfur and 2,5-million have fled to refugee camps since 2003, when ethnic African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Sudanese government, accusing it of discrimination.
Sudan denies multiple allegations of war crimes in the region.

The US ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, said there was “no doubt” that Sudan’s armed forces were behind the attack on UN peacekeepers, and he did not rule out any type of response.

“Taking punitive actions also is in that mix, including sanctions,” Khalilzad told reporters. “You’ve got economic sanctions, you’ve got political sanctions, you’ve got military sanctions, and arms—embargoes on arms.” He declined to provide more specifics.

Since 2005, the council has sent peacekeepers to Sudan, agreed to refer abusers of human rights to the UN’s International Criminal Court and ordered a travel ban and the freezing of assets for human rights violators in Sudan.

US President George Bush imposed new US economic sanctions on Sudan earlier this year that target its oil industry and are intended to pressure the government to stop the violence in Darfur.

Sudan’s UN ambassador, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad, brushed off the suggestion of new sanctions, saying the council always threatens action but rarely follows up.

According to Khalilzad and other diplomats, Mohamad had tried unsuccessfully to remove a reference to the attack having been carried out by Sudanese armed forces. The council finally agreed to include in its statement qualifying language that the attack was carried out “by elements of the Sudanese armed forces, as confirmed by the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur”.

“The government did not attack Unamid,” Mohamad told reporters on Friday. “We don’t think that there is condemnation against our government. The text itself is speaking about ‘elements’—‘elements’ can mean anything.” - Sapa-AP

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