Arab Nations Reject Call for Sanctions on Sudan

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:15pm EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - Arab nations and Muslim groups have rejected any move to impose sanctions on Sudan, where U.N. officials say Arab militias responsible for atrocities against Africans are now guarding camps where displaced victims of the violence are living.

The U.N. Security Council at the weekend adopted a resolution warning that it "will envisage" sanctions against the Sudanese oil industry unless Khartoum ends attacks on civilians in its western region of Darfur.

Spokesman for the 22-member Arab League, Hussam Zaki, said sanctions would not help resolve the crisis or encourage the warring parties -- government-backed militias and two local rebel groups -- to end it. He said sanctions "will have the opposite effect."

"It is important that the international community give the parties enough time to implement their obligations and work to get the sides to resolve the crisis instead of a confrontation."

A similar message came from the Muslim World League, whose council said in a statement that the international community should give Sudan more time to solve the crisis.

Sanctions would merely increase civilian sufferings and reduce the chances of resolving the crisis, it said.

The U.N.'s top human rights official, Louise Arbour, has told British radio that members of the militia known as the Janjaweed were not only guarding refugee camps but were also being recycled into the Sudanese police force.

The Janjaweed has been accused of atrocities which some rights groups and observers say amount to attempted genocide.

Arbour, the U.N.'s high commissioner for human rights, is on a fact-finding mission to the conflict zone. Up to 50,000 people have been killed since early last year when rebels took up arms against a government they claimed was neglecting the region politically and economically.

The African Union's Peace and Security Council has urged both the go vernment and rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Army, to comply fully with a ceasefire agreement they signed last April.

It urged Khartoum to "demonstrate more commitment and determination" to address the crisis, and to cooperate fully with the AU's mission inside the country.

Sudan has allowed a contingent of about 360 AU peacekeepers into Darfur but has limited their role to monitoring the army's protection of civilians.

The AU is also leading peace negotiations between the parties in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

The Security Council resolution demands that the Sudanese government disarm militiamen and bring to justice militia leaders and associates accused of inciting and carrying out "human rights and international humanitarian law violations and other atrocities."

It also calls for a U.N. investigation into whether the violence amounts to genocide.

The resolution has done nothing to improve the humanitarian situation in Darfur, according to the Nairobi-base U.N. World Food Program (WFP).

WFP spokesman Peter Smerdon said the agency was continuing its relief operations but that isolated flare-ups between the government and rebels were preventing full delivery of aid.

Smerdon said the WFP was feeding 940,000 people a month in the region.

The most serious obstacle is the sheer scale of the crisis, according to the agency. More than a million people needing help are scattered across an area the size of France, and with minimal infrastructure.

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