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Fighting Continues in Darfur As U.N. Threatens Sanctions

Fighting between the Sudanese army and rebel forces in the besieged Darfur region of western Sudan prevented aid agencies from assessing the needs of some of the displaced people there, the United Nations said Monday.

“Due to clashes an interagency team was not able to commence assessment of villages in Tawilla rural areas,” the United Nations said in a press statement. Most of the reported clashes occurred in North Darfur state, about 45 miles west of the state capital El-Fasher. The United Nations also said it received similar reports of fighting in Ailliet, located roughly 150 miles southeast of El-Fasher.

The United Nations says the ongoing fighting has displaced some 1.5 million people, with more than 200,000 refugees in neighboring Chad, marking one of the world’s worse humanitarian crises.

The U.N. Security Council adopted a U.S.-drafted resolution Saturday threatening Sudan with oil sanctions unless it reins in Arab militias, known as Janjaweed, accused of killing at least 50,000 ethnic African villagers and expelling more than 1 million from their homes. It also calls for a commission to investigate the human rights abuses and determine whether “acts of genocide have occurred” since 2003.

The resolution also called for more African Union troops to monitor Khartoum’s compliance and said the council would meet again to consider enacting punitive measures if Khartoum had not taken action to restrain the Janjaweed. The date of the next U.N. meeting on Sudan has not yet been determined. The resolution passed 11-0, with China, Russia, Pakistan and Algeria abstaining.

The Sudanese government is suspected of backing the Janjaweed militia as a strategy against the African rebels, whose base is Darfur’s ethnic African tribes. The Sudanese government denies any connection to the Janjaweed, calling them outlaws.

Immediately after the United Nations approved the resolution, Sudanese officials expressed disappointment over the measure but said the government would fully abide by it.

Ibrahim Ahmed Omar, head of the ruling National Congress party, on Sunday called the U.N. resolution “unfair and unjust,” saying the United Nations should recognize the efforts of the government to solve the 19-month-old rebellion in Darfur.

“The resolution did not give adequate recognition of the efforts of the Sudanese government. Therefore one feels disappointed,” he told reporters Sunday after a meeting with Pres. Omar Hassan el Bashir. Nevertheless, Omar said, the Sudanese would accept the resolution.

Sudan’s Foreign Ministry on Monday said in a statement: “As the government has expressed its willingness to abide by its commitments, then it expects that the international community will abide by its commitments in providing humanitarian aid and helping to reach a political solution.”

“The government wants to cooperate with the international community to successfully realize security and peace in Darfur.”

Meanwhile, African Union monitors say they have confirmed 20 violations in the past two months since the April cease-fire. The AU Peace and Security Council in a press statement urged the Sudanese government “to demonstrate more commitment and determination to address the prevailing situation in Darfur and extend full cooperation to the AU mission in Sudan to allow it to act more effectively.”

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