EU threatens Sudan with sanctions over Darfur

BRUSSELS (Reuters) — The European Union threatened Sudan with sanctions on Monday if it refused to allow UN peacekeepers into war-torn Darfur, but rights groups and analysts said the warning was not enough to stop the killings.

Raising strong concerns about the “intolerable” situation in Sudan’s remote west, EU foreign ministers urged other donors to provide funding for the struggling African Union mission there, while the EU executive said it had no more cash to support it.

Experts estimate 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million driven from their homes during the four-year-old conflict Washington calls genocide, a charge Sudan denies.

An ill-equipped African Union force has failed to stem the violence and protect aid workers. EU foreign ministers said Khartoum should accept a UN plan for a hybrid African Union-United Nations force in Darfur.

“The [EU] Council expresses its readiness to consider further measures notably in the UN framework against any party which obstructs its implementation,” the ministers said in a joint statement diplomats said was a reference to sanctions.

Aid groups and analysts said the statement would not be sufficient to stop the killing and the EU should threaten Khartoum with a specific list of sanctions.

“They need to be much stronger,” Nick Grono, of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said, adding that the EU should say if Khartoum does not allow the hybrid force, the bloc would target Sudan’s oil revenue and impose travel bans on key officials.

“If the EU wants to move forward it needs to draw up a list of sanctions and then do it,” Lawrence Rossin, of the Save Darfur Coalition of non-governmental organisations, told reporters.

Discussions on a peacekeeping force have been going on since early 2004, about a year after mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government, charging neglect.

In December, Sudanese President Omar Bashir softened his position by agreeing to a “hybrid operation” in a letter to outgoing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, but he has declined to elaborate publicly on the details.

The European Commission has up until now given 242 million euros ($313 million) to the AU’s Darfur peace mission and 360 million euros for humanitarian aid, EU Aid Commissioner Louis Michel said on Monday.

“The European Commission has no more money,” he said. 

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