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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 July, 2004, 10:19 GMT 11:19 UK
Sudan vows to rein in militias
Refugees cheer Colin Powell
The refugees are getting used to high-profile visits
Sudan has promised action to re-impose order in the western region of Darfur, where pro-government Arab militias have been accused of ethnic cleansing.

The Sudanese foreign minister said more security forces would be sent to the area to provide security.

He was speaking ahead of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's visit to Darfur, hot on the heels of US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

The US has drafted a UN resolution to impose sanctions on the militias.

Mr Powell warned that Sudan must take action "within days or weeks" or face UN Security Council action.

Scared

The Janjaweed militias are accused of terrifying black African villagers and driving about a million people from their homes.

Mr Annan is visiting one of the many camps for displaced people near the North Darfur capital, El Fasher.


He will then travel to neighbouring Chad, where some 100,000 refugees have fled from Darfur.

Chad fears the conflict could spread across the border.

Top UN humanitarian official Jan Egeland has warned that the villagers who had been forced to flee were very scared and did not want to go home.

Mr Egeland - under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs - said the Janjaweed continued to carry out human rights abuses, and rape and sexual abuse were rampant.

There have been widespread reports of men and women being attacked when they left their camps to search for food or firewood.

Embargo plans

The draft plan would authorise an arms embargo and ban on training for the Janjaweed.

The arms are in the country, they buy them on the black-market, they buy them from other militias and soldiers
Ahmed Diraige, former governor of Darfur

It would also impose a travel ban on Janjaweed members named on a list compiled by a Security Council committee set up to monitor the sanctions.

The draft resolution also requires the Council to decide after 30 days whether the arms embargo and travel ban against the militias should be extended to others "responsible for the commission of atrocities in Darfur".

It also endorses sending monitors from the African Union to Darfur and calls for a further team of human rights monitors to be despatched by the UN.

'Meaningless measures'

But a former governor of Darfur, Ahmed Diraige, told the BBC's World Today programme that the embargoes on the Janjaweed have "no meaning".

Colin Powell in Darfur camp

Speaking of the travel ban he explained "these are local militias, they have never been outside their territories... their movements are internal, they are moving from village to village destroying and killing people".

He said the arms embargo would be similarly ineffective:

"The militias get their arms internally. The arms are in the country, they buy them on the black market, they buy them from other militias and soldiers. So really an arms embargo would only really be effective against the government."

Travel warning

Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail told reporters on Wednesday: "We will combat any militias and Janjaweed so that we secure the protection of civilians."

The BBC's Ishbel Matheson in Khartoum says the government has made similar pledges before.

The US and the UN, she says, are now insisting that they should be turned into reality.

Empty village
Hundreds of Darfur villages have been deserted

Mr Ismail also promised to lift any restrictions on humanitarian workers in Darfur.

Earlier on Wednesday Mr Powell visited a camp in Darfur, where he was cheered by thousands of refugees.

Mr Powell's motorcade was instantly mobbed as it entered Abu Shouk camp.

HAVE YOUR SAY
When the international community is indecisive and slow to react it encourages such behaviour
Dale Lanan, Longmont, Colorado, USA

The UN has described Darfur as "the worst humanitarian crisis in the world".

The crisis developed after two rebel groups took up arms against the government in February of last year, demanding more rights for black Africans.

At least 10,000 people have been killed.

A ceasefire was signed earlier this year, but frequent violations have been reported.

Meanwhile, the US State Department has said it has received intelligence warnings of terror attacks against US and Western interests in Sudan.

It has renewed its advice to US citizens not to travel to Sudan.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Susannah Price
"This has been called the worst humanitarian disaster in the world today"



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