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Attacks Reportedly Continuing

Militias still terrorize Darfur villagers, a U.N. official says, as possible sanctions draw near.

August 31, 2004|Maggie Farley | Times Staff Writer

UNITED NATIONS — The Sudanese government has failed to stop attacks on black farmers in the western region of Darfur, a senior U.N. official said Monday, the last day of a 30-day grace period the Security Council had granted before considering sanctions against Khartoum.

At the same time, the government has provided aid groups access to the area and says it has arrested about 200 militia leaders responsible for the attacks. Such progress, though uneven, makes the U.N. unlikely to press its threat of economic and diplomatic penalties just yet, diplomats said Monday.

Some on the Security Council argue that punitive measures would isolate and alienate U.N. members who cooperate with their requests and would remove any remaining incentives for others to reform.

Instead of sanctions, many are pushing for greater engagement by the African Union, which recently deployed 310 Rwandan and Nigerian troops to protect 100 monitors of a cease-fire agreement. The United States and the United Nations would like to see as many as 3,000 regional troops in Darfur to help restore stability -- a proposal Khartoum has rejected.

In early July, Khartoum agreed to disarm and prosecute the militias, give aid workers access to victims of the 18-month crisis and create a secure environment for the region's more than 1.2 million displaced people to return home safely.

On Monday, a senior U.N. relief official, Dennis McNamara, told reporters that the pro-government militias known as the janjaweed continue to terrorize people in Darfur with impunity. McNamara, who returned Sunday from a tour of Darfur, said people reported that the janjaweed were still harassing, raping and killing farmers and people living in temporary camps.

"It hasn't stopped," said McNamara, special advisor to the U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator on Internal Displacement. "There are enough firsthand, credible reports that this remains a major problem."

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who chairs the African Union, said Monday that the organization's monitors had also confirmed allegations of fresh attacks last week.

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