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Saturday, July 24, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Sudan faces sanctions over Darfur, Powell says

By PRISCILLA CHEUNG
The Associated Press

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UNITED NATIONS — Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sudan must act quickly to disarm Arab militias in its western Darfur region or face possible U.N. sanctions, while the U.S. Congress declared that the killings of tens of thousands of black civilians by Arab militias there amount to "genocide."

Pro-government Janjaweed militias have been accused of killing up to 30,000 civilians, most of them black villagers, and forcing more than 1 million to flee their homes.

U.S. officials and humanitarian groups accuse the Sudanese government of backing the militias, a claim Khartoum denies.

Both the House and Senate measures passed unanimously Thursday night urged President Bush, likewise, to call the situation in Sudan "by its rightful name — genocide" and urged his administration to work with the international community to stop it.

A 1948 U.N. convention obligates the international community to prevent and punish acts it has declared as genocide.

Sudan's foreign minister denied that the violence in Darfur amounted to genocide and insisted his government was cooperating with the United Nations and doing all it could to solve the humanitarian crisis.

"Congress is always biased," Mustafa Osman Ismail said in Brussels, Belgium, referring to the U.S. declaration. "I would rather say what the Africans who are concerned with this case (are saying). They issued a resolution at an African summit ... that there is no genocide in Darfur."

"They have been supporting and sustaining some of these Janjaweed elements, and this has to end," Powell said. "Since they turned it on, they can turn it off," he added. "We made it clear to them that there will be consequences if it is not turned off."

On Thursday, Ismail accused the United States and Britain of meddling in the crisis, saying their increased pressure was the same tactic they used against Iraq.

"One person's meddling is another person's attempt to save people who are in desperate trouble," Powell retorted.

Annan said he told the Sudanese that "if they do the right thing, if they protect their population and bring the situation under control, nobody would meddle and they would come under no pressure, so the solution is really in their hands if they think the outside world is meddling."

Powell rejected military action.

"This is a very large area. There is not a simple military solution that is at hand," he said. "This is a matter for the Sudanese government to handle."

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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