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Russia, China oppose sanctions against Sudanese officials

April 17, 2006 (UNITED NATIONS) — Russia and China will oppose sanctions against four Sudanese for blocking peace efforts and violating human rights in Darfur, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said Monday.

John_Bolton3.jpgBritain sent the list of four names to the chairman of the U.N. sanctions committee on Sudan on Thursday and the 15 Security Council members have until 4 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT) to lodge objections, a move strongly supported by the United States.

Bolton told reporters that the United States has been informed informally that Russia and China will object to the sanctions, and in light of their opposition the United States asked for a council meeting late Monday and may circulate a resolution that would impose the sanctions. Qatar, the only Arab member of the council, is also expected to object, council diplomats said.

“We’ve been trying to get this process in gear for a year and we think that the list of four names … is a solid list,” Bolton said. “It’s a down payment. It’s certainly not the end of the sanctions process.”

China’s U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said the timing of this effort was bad because serious negotiations are under way in Abuja, Nigeria, to end the three-year Darfur conflict, hopefully by April 30 as the Security Council has demanded.

“China believes that this is not the right moment since the Abuja negotiations are under way and we expect progress on that. So therefore everything must be done to help the Abuja process,” Wang said. “At this sensitive moment, to publish this list will have a negative effect on the negotiations there.”

He reiterated Beijing’s longstanding opposition to sanctions as unhelpful to resolving conflicts.

Bolton was asked about possibly delaying the sanctions until after April 30.

“Certainly, we hope the talks will produce a result by the 30th,” he said. “But our view is that these sanctions proceedings have been pending for a while … and we don’t see any reason to delay it.”

A Security Council resolution adopted in March 2005 authorized an asset freeze and travel ban on individuals who defy peace efforts, violate international human rights law, or are responsible for military overflights in Darfur.

A U.N. panel that investigated the Darfur conflict recommended last year that 51 people be prosecuted for war crimes, including senior government officials. But council members have not been able to agree on any names to put on a U.N. sanctions list.

The British list was the first to be circulated to council members, and while it drew support from other council members, including Argentina, Denmark, France, Japan, Peru and Slovakia, Russia reacted cautiously.

When asked last Wednesday whether Moscow supports sanctions, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Andrey Denisov said: “Human rights abuses should be judged, it is clear.”

“But at the same time, (the) political process should not be interrupted, and it is very fragile in Sudan, and any additional aggravations can play negative role in that process. So let’s wait … and see who’s on that list,” Denisov said.

The Darfur conflict has left about 180,000 dead over the last three years _ most from disease and hunger — and displaced another 2 million from their homes.

Decades of low-level tribal clashes over land and water in the Darfur region erupted into large-scale violence in early 2003 when ethnic African tribes took up arms, accusing the Arab-dominated central government of neglect. The government is accused of responding by unleashing Arab tribal militias known as Janjaweed to murder and rape civilians and lay waste to villages — a charge it denies.

Council diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because the list has not been released, said the four names proposed for sanctions include one member of the Sudanese government, two rebel figures, and one member of the Janjaweed.

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