U.S. says U.N. Darfur text sends wrong signal
UNITED NATIONS |
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council is set to renew a mandate for peacekeepers in Darfur on Thursday in a resolution that Washington criticized for raising concerns about moves to indict Sudan's president for genocide.
Most Western powers agreed to wording that makes clear the council is ready to discuss suspending any future International Criminal Court indictment of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for genocide in the interest of peace in Darfur.
Five years of war have brought humanitarian disaster to the western Sudanese region and Darfur campaigners accused the world of failing to provide helicopters and other badly needed support for the struggling peacekeeping mission there.
Western diplomats said the resolution extending the mission would likely be approved when the council votes on Thursday but U.S. criticism of a key paragraph in the British-drafted text, added to accommodate African concerns about the ICC, indicated that there was a possibility it might not pass unanimously.
Asked how Washington would vote, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations Richard Grenell said: "The language on the ICC sends the wrong signal to a man who presided over genocide." He did not elaborate.
While Washington was unlikely to use its veto power to kill the resolution, which would jeopardize the entire peacekeeping mission, it could abstain. Diplomats on the council have said they wanted the vote to be unanimous to show that the council was undivided in support of peacekeepers in the line of fire.
The vote was postponed by two hours to 2100 GMT (10:00 p.m. BST) as council diplomats worked to persuade the Americans to vote yes.
Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem told Reuters on Wednesday it was an "acceptable" text for Khartoum.
Nearly half the 15-member council had made a reference to the international court in the text a condition of renewing the peacekeeping mandate.
Despite the accommodation to South Africa, Libya, Russia, China and four other council members on the court, another Western diplomat described the resolution as a "wake-up call" to the world to finally end the Darfur crisis.
International experts and U.N. officials estimate at last 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million been driven from their homes in Darfur since mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003 accusing central government of neglect.
Khartoum blames the Western media for exaggerating the conflict and says 10,000 people have been killed.
Security in Darfur, an area roughly the size of France where oil was discovered in 2005, has been deteriorating, making work ever harder for the world's biggest aid operation. Tension has grown since the moves to indict Bashir.
The resolution expresses the council's deep concern at the insecurity and the killing of aid workers. It also demanded an end to all attacks on civilians "including by aerial bombing."
The rebels accuse the government of backing militia who have devastated Darfur villages and of carrying out bombing raids, charges Khartoum has denied. But the council also has the rebels in mind with its call for an end to all violence.
On Thursday, two courts condemned 22 Darfur rebels to death for their involvement in an unprecedented raid on the capital in May which killed more than 200 people.
This brought the total to be hanged to 30. The Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement has threatened to retaliate.
The U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force, known as UNAMID, has been struggling to stabilise the situation, but has only deployed some 9,500 troops and police out of a planned force of 26,000, due to both Khartoum's demands and U.N. bureaucracy.
Adding to the force's difficulties, troop contributing countries have failed to provide badly-needed helicopters.
A report by aviation expert Thomas Withington, backed by 30 rights groups and think tanks, named countries which could easily provide the helicopters and said NATO members alone could supply 104 helicopters -- six times the number needed.
The U.N. security council resolution calls on member states to provide the helicopters and everything else UNAMID needs.
The U.N. hopes to have 80 percent of the mission deployed by year-end. The resolution urges both the U.N. and Sudan to do everything possible to make UNAMID fully functional.
The Non-Aligned Movement on Thursday joined the African Union and Arab League in expressing concern about the international court's efforts to try Bashir.
(Additional reporting by Opheera McDoom and Ibrahim Hamdi in Khartoum, Fredrik Dahl in Tehran; Editing by Eric Walsh)
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