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France Challenges United States on Sudan Trials

3/23 12:47pm

By Evelyn Leopold
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - France challenged the United States on Wednesday by scheduling a vote on a resolution referring perpetrators of atrocities in Sudan's Darfur region to the International Criminal Court, which Washington rejects.

The French draft, expected to be brought up in the U.N. Security Council on Thursday afternoon, would also exclude nationals of any state that had not ratified the treaty setting up the Hague-based court -- including American citizens -- from prosecution for participating in any U.N. operation in Sudan.

The United States, which on Tuesday split its draft resolution on Sudan into three parts in an effort to break a Security Council deadlock on Sudan, decided to seek a vote on Thursday only on the part authorizing 10,000 peacekeepers for southern Sudan, which was virtually assured of passage.

That would delay action on the two Darfur resolutions -- one offering three options on where to prosecute atrocities in Darfur and the other seeking sanctions targeting government and rebel leaders involved in fighting there.

Diplomats said as many as 10 of the council's 15 members could end up backing the French draft, obliging Washington to either abstain and let the measure go through, or veto it.

After closed-door talks, council members said Russia, China and Algeria appeared to back the U.S. approach. The nine council members that have ratified the ICC treaty -- Argentina, Benin, Brazil, Britain, Denmark, France, Greece, Romania and Tanzania -- expressed support for the French draft. Japan and the Philippines were uncertain, they said.

The ICC, the world's first permanent tribunal for genocide, war crimes and mass human rights violations, was recommended as the best place to try Darfur suspects by an international commission requested by the council.

But the Bush administration proposed a new U.N.-African Union tribunal as an alternative. Nigeria, president of the African Union, then suggested a special panel to both hear war crimes cases and foster reconciliation in Sudan.

Washington wants nothing to do with the ICC, fearing its officials and soldiers serving abroad could be targets of politically motivated prosecutions.

The Security Council can refer a case to the court even if the nation involved, like Sudan, is not a signatory.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in a two-year-old rebellion against the government in Darfur over power and resources. Thousands are dying every month in miserable camps that house nearly 2 million people who have fled their homes after attacks by Arab militias, at times backed by the Khartoum government.

The U.S. peacekeeping resolution would authorize a U.N. mission to monitor an agreement ending a separate 21-year civil war between Khartoum and rebels in southern Sudan.

The second U.S. resolution would strengthen an arms embargo on Darfur and order sanctions against human rights violators and those who jeopardize a cease-fire in the region. Russia and China, which have veto power, as well as Algeria and other nations have objected to some of those measures.

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This report does not necessarily reflect the views of Sudanese

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