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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 March, 2005, 16:20 GMT
Showdown looms over Sudan trials
Refugee in Darfur
Darfur refugees accused the government of arming the Janjaweed
France has delayed plans to seek a UN Security Council vote on whether to refer war crimes suspects in Sudan to the new International Criminal Court.

The US strongly opposes the court and this issue has stopped the UN from making progress on Sudan.

France's draft resolution is likely to be adopted unless the US vetoes it.

The pro-government Janjaweed militia in Sudan's Darfur region are accused of killing thousands of villagers and forcing two million from their homes.

A UN commission earlier this year found the atrocities committed in Darfur could be crimes against humanity, and said the culprits should be tried at the Hague court - created to deal with cases of war crimes and genocide.

Wasting time

French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere said the vote would be delayed to give delegates more time to study the text, reports Reuters news agency.

The US has been in the forefront of trying to put pressure on Sudan to end the violence in Darfur and correspondents say using its veto to block such a resolution would be a huge embarrassment.

Darfur's rebel groups say that people are being killed, while the world powers squabble over where to refer the war crimes charges.

"I hope these countries will overcome their differences because the situation is getting worse in Darfur and it's an emergency," said Mahjub Hussein, a spokesman for the Sudan Liberation Movement.

"For us it's not so important where the court is but we must not waste more time."

The US has tried to get round the deadlock by splitting its draft resolution into three parts:

  • Where to try war crimes suspects
  • Whether to impose sanctions on Sudan
  • Whether to send some 10,000 peacekeepers to monitor a peace deal to end a separate war in southern Sudan.

The US says this would mean deadlock in one area would not stop progress elsewhere.

Uncertain outcome

But France and the UK are thought to favour one overall resolution on Sudan.

"We've gone to great lengths to make sure that the text on the table is one that was most likely to be acceptable or at least not objectionable to any colleagues," said the UK Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry to the UN, referring to the French resolution.

Even though nine Security Council members are expected to support it, the outcome is still uncertain.

The US has the power to veto the move. It rejects the court, saying Americans abroad could be targeted by politically motivated prosecutions.

Nigeria had previously proposed setting up a special Africa-run tribunal in order to break the deadlock.

Russia and China, which have close ties to the Sudan government, have blocked previous attempts to threaten sanctions on Sudan if the violence does not stop.

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