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SLUG: 2-317779 EU / Sudan (L only)
TITLE=EU / SUDAN (L-ONLY)
HEADLINE: E.U. Backs Sanctions Against Sudan
INTRO: European Union foreign ministers have called for the United Nations to consider imposing sanctions on Sudan if it does not rein in pro-government militias responsible for violence against civilians in the western Sudanese region of Darfur. VOA's Roger Wilkison reports from Brussels the ministers have not yet decided on the nature of such sanctions, but say they will monitor events in Darfur closely over the next few weeks.
TEXT: The European Union wants Sudan to honor an agreement it struck early this month with the United Nations in which it pledged to neutralize the militias, improve security for civilians, and provide better access for relief efforts.
Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot, whose country holds the 25-nation bloc's rotating presidency, says the European Union is receiving reports of massive human-rights violations in Darfur, and it is concerned about lack of progress in Sudan's implementation of the accord.
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"We have also appealed to the (U.N.) Security Council to pass a resolution with a view to taking further action, including the possibility of imposing sanctions in case Sudan does not immediately fulfill its obligations and commitments."
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Mr. Bot, who met Saturday in The Hague with Sudanese foreign minister Mustafa Osman Ismail, told reporters that the Sudanese government has promised to fully implement the agreement with the United Nations but that it has asked for more time.
The Dutch foreign minister would not say what sanctions the European Union may seek against Sudan if it does not comply with its pledges. He says that will depend on the situation in Darfur, where a few E.U. observers have joined a more numerous group of monitors from the African Union. But he says the Sudanese have understood the E.U. message.
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"They know very well that the threat of sanctions is imminent if they do not comply with the obligations, but we feel that we have to decide on the nature of the sanctions also in the light of the situation in the field."
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The United Nations says 30-thousand people have been killed in Darfur and that more than a million have been driven from their homes since the violence erupted there last year.
But the European Union has shied away from calling the killing of civilians by pro-government militias genocide, as the U.S. Congress did last week. The European Union has made clear that it wants to engage the Sudanese government and hopes that diplomatic pressure will force it to stop supporting the militias.
E.U. foreign policy chief Javier Solana told reporters he is encouraged that staging points for distributing humanitarian aid in the region are now open to relief missions.
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"The situation is slightly better, but it does not mean that the problem is solved ... The risk is very high of having a potential catastrophe there."
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E.U. officials say more than two-million people in Darfur are in dire need of food and medical attention. (SIGNED)
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