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EU: European Union Threatens Sanctions Against Sudanese Government

By Ahto Lobjakas

EU foreign ministers today raised the threat of sanctions against the Sudanese government unless it takes immediate measures to end large-scale human rights violations in its western province of Darfur. Officials said a push by Germany, Britain, Sweden, and others for immediate measures had been blocked by France. An EU statement says the decision to impose sanctions rests with the United Nations Security Council.

Brussels, 26 July 2004 (RFE/RL) -- EU foreign ministers were unable to come to a consensus about imposing immediate sanctions on the Sudanese government.

Tough measures favoured by some countries -- led by Germany -- were eventually weakened to a general call for sustained pressure on Khartoum.

Speaking for the EU presidency, Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot said EU concerns have been explained to the Sudanese foreign minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, who is touring Europe.

"We have stressed keeping up the pressure on the Sudanese government; we have [said that] today in our declaration," Bot said. "But I think, even more importantly, in the context of the personal contacts we have had with the [visiting Sudanese foreign minister], we have stressed that we will follow [the Sudanese government] closely and stress the importance of keeping up the pressure on the government."

The ministers adopted a statement saying the UN Security Council must impose sanctions on the Sudanese government if it "does not immediately fulfil its obligations and commitments."

EU sources told RFE/RL the bloc was held back by France, which is unwilling to contemplate either sanctions or EU military intervention.

Michel Barnier, the French foreign minister, said after the meeting the main responsibility for normalizing the situation in Darfur rests with the 53-nation African Union.

"We want to support the efforts of the African Union, which takes upon itself all of the responsibility in surveying the observance of all the conditions of the cease-fire and put in place the logistics [for humanitarian aid], and that's what I will say tomorrow [when visiting Sudan], that we will continue to support the efforts of the African Union," Barnier said.

Barnier also stressed the UN Security Council must put pressure on all parties involved.

The EU has earmarked 208 million euros ($253 million) for humanitarian aid. Barnier said the bloc's first concern is to see that the aid is delivered. The bloc has also given the African Union's cease-fire observer mission 12 million euros and is sending eight experts to join its ranks.

Bot on 26 July said humanitarian access to Darfur has improved in recent days.

He said the Sudanese government has promised its full cooperation, adding that Foreign Minister Ismail had indicated he "understands [the EU's] carrot-and-stick approach."

"I think, at the moment, we are waiting to see whether they [the Sudanese government] will fulfill their obligations and whether they will do what they have said they will do," Bot said. "They know very well that the threat of sanctions is imminent if they don't comply with the obligations."

Bot said that if the government of Sudan does not comply with its obligations, the EU will return to contemplating sanctions.

Copyright (c) 2004. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org



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