France and Britain raise specter of sanctions on Darfur

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - The leaders of France and Britain on Friday revived the specter of sanctions against Khartoum if progress is not made on a Darfur ceasefire and upcoming political talks.

An internally displaced Sudanese man rides on a donkey at the Abu Shouk refugee camp in Darfur region, March 24, 2007. The leaders of France and Britain on Friday revived the specter of sanctions against Khartoum if progress is not made on a Darfur ceasefire and upcoming political talks. REUTERS/Michael Kamber

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a joint editorial that they would work to deploy by the end of the year a 26,000-strong U.N.-African Union force to replace a struggling AU mission which has failed to stem violence in western Sudan.

The joint editorial in The Times in London said sanctions could be used to bring peace to Darfur.

“It is the combination of a ceasefire, a peacekeeping force, economic reconstruction and the threat of sanctions that can bring a political solution to the region -- and we will spare no efforts in making this happen,” the op-ed said.

“We will support all efforts to expedite preparations of the deployment of the AU-UN force ... so that it will be operational by the end of this year,” they added.

On Thursday a report from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the force was still short of key aviation, transport and logistic personnel and that Friday’s deadline for commitments from member states would have to be extended.

“Offers are still lacking for some critical military capabilities,” the report said.

It also said the United Nations wanted a more “diverse police component,” and that some of the mostly African infantry troops offered lacked “the equipment necessary to implement their required tasks”.

U.N. officials had said they wanted Western nations to provide the logistics specialists which had long been the Achilles’ heel of the AU force.

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Ban is due in Khartoum on Monday at the start of a visit to Sudan, Chad and Libya with Darfur as the focus.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal court based in The Hague, told Reuters in Amsterdam on Friday he has asked Ban to press the Sudanese government to hand over two suspects charged with war crimes in Darfur.

In February, Moreno-Ocampo issued arrest warrants for Ahmad Harun, a former state minister of interior, and Ali Kushayb, a militia leader. They are accused of mass executions, rapes and forcible evictions of thousands of people.

Moreno-Ocampo said the arrest warrants, and the reasons why they were issued, “cannot be ignored”.

“The person who committed the crimes is today in charge of humanitarian affairs,” Moreno-Ocampo said of Harun, who is currently Sudan’s minister of state for humanitarian affairs.

“It’s like a joke, a tragic joke,” Moreno-Ocampo said.

International experts estimate 200,000 people have died with 2.5 million driven from their homes to makeshift camps in Darfur and in neighboring Chad.

Brown and Sarkozy also urged all rebel groups to attend renewed peace talks due to begin in October. The rebels fractured into more than a dozen factions following an imperfect May 2006 peace deal signed by one of three negotiating factions.

“We urge the Government of Sudan and rebel leaders to engage fully and sincerely in this process,” they said.

Sudan has rebuked France for not doing more to push Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) founder Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur into the peace process.

Nur, who lives in France in self-imposed exile, continues to be the only major rebel to refuse to attend talks. Nur says he wants international troops in Darfur ahead of any peace process.

Additional reporting by Reed Stevenson in Amsterdam