Sudan has rejected claims by Colin Powell, US secretary of state, that the campaign of violence waged by the Sudanese government and Arab militia against African tribes in the Darfur region constituted genocide.
Mustafa Osman Ismail, Sudan’s foreign minister, told the BBC that whilst the Sudanese government has made mistakes “the situation was not tantamount to genocide.” His comments come after Mr Powell spoke out on the atrocities.
The secretary of state said that although “genocide has been committed in Darfur”, no western government was ready to send its forces to stop the continued killing.
The US decision to apply the legal definition of genocide was intended to put pressure on Khartoum to halt the violence, and influence negotiations at the United Nations that could result in the threat of sanctions against Sudan’s oil industry.
Interviews of refugees and other sources carried out by the US, he said, demonstrated that the Sudanese military and militia had committed large-scale acts of violence, including murder and rape, and that they had destroyed villages, food supplies and other means of survival, while blocking relief efforts.
An estimated 30,000 to 50,000 people, mostly African farmers, have been killed, and 1.4m made homeless. Sudan denies accusations of genocide and blames much of the violence on rebels.
However, Mr Powell said that despite the conclusion, “no new action is dictated by this determination” and it was the responsibility of the Sudanese authorities to stop the killing.
“There is nobody prepared to send in troops there from the United States or the European Union or elsewhere to put it down in the sense of an imposition of force,” he said. But the US was ready to help the African Union with the military logistics and financing of a proposed monitoring and protection force, possibly numbering 5,000 troops.
China and Pakistan, Mr Powell said, were reluctant to agree to a strong UN resolution. Diplomats said Russia and Algeria had also expressed reservations.
The draft also calls on the UN to launch an investigation into the question of genocide.
The US is still haunted by the passivity of the Clinton administration in 1994 when 800,000 Rwandans, mostly Tutsis, were massacred by the Hutu majority.
The US belatedly said “acts of genocide” had occurred.
Rwanda’s Tutsi-led government and Nigeria are taking the lead in sending monitors to Darfur. About 125 monitors and 300 troops have been deployed.
Under a 1948 convention, genocide is considered an international crime that signatories “undertake to prevent and punish”. The EU has not adopted the term for Darfur.