US: “Cavalier” violations of U.N. Darfur arms embargo

Source: Reuters

* Sudan’s U.N. envoy criticizes U.S. Ambassador Rice * U.S. disappointed by U.N. sanctions committee By Edith Honan UNITED NATIONS, March 4 (Reuters) – The U.S. envoy to the United Nations accused Sudan on Thursday of “cavalier” violations of U.N. sanctions aimed at limiting the flow of arms and curbing violence in its conflict-torn Darfur region. “We know that weapons continue to flow into Darfur, acts of sexual and gender-based violence continue unabated and with impunity, military over-flights and offensive actions continue,” U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters after a closed-door meeting of the U.N. Security Council. A 2005 U.N. embargo bans the transfer of military hardware to Darfur, a remote region in western Sudan about the size of France. Khartoum can import arms, but not for use in Darfur. “The blatant disregard of the will of the council is undermining stability rather than fostering it, which was the aim of the (sanctions) regime in the first place,” Rice said. Sudanese Ambassador Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem told Reuters that Rice was “swimming against the current of objectivity and common sense.” “What we expect of her is to reinforce the current peace process rather than unnecessary notions about the sanctions committee,” he said. Rice also faulted some council members for failing to act on any of the recommendations put forward by a U.N. Panel of Experts aimed at improving compliance with the embargo. The panel said groups on all sides of the conflict were guilty and attacks against the Darfur’s population continued. “We’re deeply disappointed the committee has failed to reach consensus on even a single one of these recommendations” to end “what has been cavalier violation of this sanctions regime,” Rice said. U.S. SKEPTICISM The United Nations says about 2.7 million people have been driven from their homes since 2003, when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the state after accusing Khartoum of neglecting Darfur. The United Nations says as many as 300,000 people died, but Khartoum says 10,000 were killed. U.N. diplomats say the main obstacle to further council action appears to be China, which holds a veto on the 15-member panel and has the power to block any resolution broadening the sanctions. Beijing has made clear it would oppose further U.N. steps against Khartoum. The United States, Britain, France and Russia are also permanent Security Council members with veto power. China’s position as Khartoum’s top arms supplier is well known and has long been criticized by human rights activists and Western governments. Khartoum signed a cease-fire recently with the rebel Justice and Equality Movement, one of the groups that started the Darfur revolt in 2003, although that agreement appears in jeopardy. (Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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