UNITED NATIONS (FinalCall.com) – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon requested a delay by the United States and Britain in their push for sanctions against the Sudan Apr. 2, saying he needs more time to persuade Khartoum to allow more UN peacekeepers into Darfur. “Before we talk about sanctions, let me have some more political space to deal with this dialogue with them,” Mr. Ban said.

Mr. Ban’s remarks came after the UN announced that five Senegalese peacekeepers were killed in Darfur, the largest number killed since the 7,000-strong African Union force deployed in 2004. The UN claims that 16 African Union peacekeepers have now died in Darfur.

The new secretary-general just returned from an Arab League summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he asked Arab leaders to support a UN plan to send 20,000 troops to Darfur. According to press reports, little interest was shown by Arab leaders concerning Darfur. Egypt had declined in an earlier meeting to join Mr. Ban in pressuring their neighbor Sudan.


Sudan’s president, Omar Al-Bashir, told reporters in Riyadh that a deployment of UN troops in Darfur would be considered a “violation of Sudan’s sovereignty.”

The UN says that more than 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur in the last four years. Another 2.5 million have been displaced and four million are now dependant on international assistance. Sudanese officials continue to challenge these numbers, asking for proof from those who make such charges.

According to the UN, Pres. Bashir signed an agreement last week with the international body allowing aid workers into his nation.

The tough talk coming from officials in Britain and the United States concerning sanctions against the Bashir-government started in early March. The U.S. talks about tougher economic sanctions on Sudanese companies, which would block international transactions involving U.S. dollars, while Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair stated in an article in The Guardian (London) on Mar. 15, that he wouild press for a broader arms embargo in the UN Security Council.

“We must show we are prepared to take tough action if the situation doesn’t change,” Blair told The Guardian. “We cannot let this slip down the agenda.”

Britain’s ambassador to the UN, Emyr Jones Parry, explained to reporters on Apr. 14, that work on any sanction’s resolution had been “stayed.” He said if there was no progress on the “political track,” then the work on further sanctions would emerge in a draft resolution. “The issue of the arms embargo would be addressed, as would monitoring of prohibited air movements over Darfur.”

A new UN report, released in early March, called for intervention in Sudan because of the “strife in the Darfur region.” The report also calls for tougher sanctions and war-crimes prosecution for Sudanese officials.

The report, which was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council, said the situation in Darfur is “characterized by gross and systematic violations of human rights and grave breaches of international humanitarian law.” War crimes and crimes against humanity continue across the region, the High-Level Mission stated.

The report calls on the Sudanese government to “cooperate fully” in the deployment of the proposed UN/African Union peacekeeping/protection force “without further delay.”

The High-Level Mission, headed by Jody Williams, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and an American campaigner against land mines, also called on the Sudanese government to remove all obstacles to the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the millions in need in the region.

Ironically, the mission was denied entrance to Darfur.

Ms. Williams exlained to reporters at the UN that her mission interviewed refugees from Darfur during their month-long trip from February 5 to March 5, in such places as Addis Ababa, N’Djamena, Abeche and the refugee camps in Eastern Chad. “We were very comfortable with how we proceeded,” Ms. Williams said.

Ahmed El Mardi, the Sudan’s Minister of Justice, told reporters in Geneva, Switzerland, that the report was “null and void” and “unfair,” and did not represent the true situation, according to a story in the Washington Times on Mar. 16.

Sudanese ambassador to the UN, Dr. Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem refuted, allegations that his government was not cooperating with aid agencies. “We are very aware of the humanitarian situation in Darfur and we are cooperating with the agencies,” he told The Final Call.

The ambassador’s harshest words were reserved for Britain.

“Britain has never been for peace in the Sudan. We really question their commitment to the peace in Sudan,” he stressed, adding, “This language of threats and sanctions, what does it mean.”

China’s ambassador to the UN, Wang Guangya, told the Associated Press that more “clarification” of the Sudanese position is needed before the Security Council could proceed.

China is the biggest foreign investor in the Sudan and buys two-thirds of the nation’s oil exports, according to the AP. A top human rights diplomat, speaking anonymously in Geneva, told the Washington Times that Chinese companies are the “real target” in all the talk about sanctioning companies doing business with the Sudan.

In a Mar. 13 op-ed piece in The New York Times, the writer states that he “invited readers to send in their suggestions” on how to handle the situation in Darfur. “Many (readers) wanted a much tougher approach toward China, which has protected the Sudan diplomatically. Some advocated a boycott of all Chinese products, while others favor a boycott of the Beijing Olympics in 2008,” the op-ed writer stated.

In the meantime, Amb. Abdalhaleem explained to The Final Call that his government did not believe that the discussion on the peacekeeping force was a “take it or leave exercise.”

“Ban Ki-Moon invited our comments; and in our view, the reply from our president is positive,” he said.

According to the UN, Pres. Al-Bashir will hold talks later this week with the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was also announced that on Apr. 16 and 17, the head of the AU, Alpha Oumar Konare, will meet in New York to hold high-level talks concerning the crisis in Darfur.