U.S. circulates U.N. resolution on Sudan
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The United States circulated a resolution Wednesday to member nations of the U.N. Security Council calling for sanctions against the militias being blamed for what has been described as a "humanitarian catastrophe" in Sudan.
The resolution would place an arms embargo and travel restrictions on the so-called "Janjaweed" militias blamed for the abuses that have affected more than 2 million people in the western region of Darfur.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell are currently in Sudan, in an effort to pressure the Sudanese government to do more to build security and bring peace to the region.
The country has long been wracked by a civil war, and the conflict in Darfur exploded last year when rebels attacked government property, accusing the government of neglecting mostly black Darfur in favor of the country's Arab population.
The government responded by setting up Arab militias, known as Janjaweed, to put down the rebellion. The militias are accused of waging a campaign to expel black Africans from the vast and remote section of the country.
Human rights groups have decried an ethnic cleansing campaign in the region that has left between 15,000 and 30,000 dead and displaced more than a million -- with many of them fleeing to neighboring Chad.
The groups have reported widespread raping, looting, pillaging, and the burnings of large areas.
The resolution calls on all countries to ensure that the militia is not sold or provided with military equipment, vehicles, weapons, ammunition, and spare parts.
Chile's ambassador to the U.N., Heraldo Munoz, said the resolution is a good step.
"The Security Council needs to send a strong signal that we will not accept another Rwanda," he added.
No formal action is proposed against the government of Sudan, despite charges it is behind the militia attacks.
Instead, the proposed resolution says sanctions could be applied to people or groups responsible for the commission of atrocities in Darfur.
The resolution does call on Sudan to live up to commitments already made to block the militia assaults. The resolution says the government must protect civilians and cooperate with all humanitarian relief efforts, including the opening of access to get aid to affected people.
Numerous relief groups say Sudan has stalled access.
The council will discuss the resolution next week. The timetable appears to allow time for any impact of Annan's and Powell's visit to take place.
The two men visited the war-ravaged Darfur region of Sudan Wednesday, seeing firsthand the devastation of Arab militias' violent campaign against black Africans.
"We have a humanitarian catastrophe and a security crisis," Powell told CNN in an exclusive interview after the visit. "It was a moving experience."
Powell's visit is the first to Sudan by a U.S. secretary of state since 1978.
Asked whether the situation in Darfur is genocide, Powell said, "Let's not put a label on things. We know what the situation is like, we know what we have to do and we're going to do it."
Annan has called it the world's worst humanitarian crisis, and said it borders on ethnic cleansing.
Powell's and Annan's trips were aimed largely at pressuring the Sudanese government to take action.
Before arriving Wednesday in Darfur -- but after Powell's initial meetings with Sudanese leaders -- a senior State Department official said, "The Sudanese government is in a state of denial, a state of avoidance," and accused Sudanese leaders of "trying to obfuscate and avoid any consequences."
The official added, "They are not doing enough to recognize the size and scope of the problem or take responsibility for it."
Speaking to CNN after the visit to Darfur and further meetings with Sudanese leaders, Powell said he outlined a several-point plan with the Sudanese government to restore security and peace in Darfur, and vowed the United States will follow up to see to it that the government complies.
Powell said humanitarian workers should get visas immediately for the area and be able to go about their business without any fear or intimidation.
The U.N. refugee agency has appealed for $90 million to handle the expected influx, the United Nations said Wednesday in a statement.