US envoy threatens Sudan with UN sanctions over Darfur force

(AFP) - The US envoy to the UN on Thursday threatened Sudan with additional sanctions if it continued to drag its feet on allowing the deployment of 26,000 UN-African Union peacekeepers in Darfur .

"There has been a record of the Sudanese government dragging its feet in implementing agreements," Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters after Security Council consultations on the stalled deployment of the force known as UNAMID in the strife-torn Sudanese region.

If Khartoum fails to quickly allow the inclusion of crucial Thai, Nepalese and Scandinavian units to bolster UNAMID, he said the 15-member Security Council would have to consider further action.

"The range of options or instruments include imposition of additional sanctions," he warned.

Last October, Washington threatened to push for tougher UN sanctions, including expanding a list of Sudanese officials found responsible for atrocities in Darfur , who would be subjected to an assets freeze and a travel ban.

Other threatened measures are an extension of the existing UN arms embargo in Darfur to the whole of Sudan or imposing a no-fly zone over Darfur .

In May, Washington had also announced stricter unilateral sanctions, barring more companies, including oil exporters, from US trade and financial dealings, and targeting two top Sudanese government officials.

Khalilzad spoke after UN Assistant Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet briefed the council on his talks regarding UNAMID with Sudanese officials in Lisbon last weekend on the sidelines of a European Union-AU summit.

"As of today we have not received any official answer from the government of Sudan regarding these three (Thai, Nepalese and Scandinavian) contingents yet," said Mulet .

He also said UNAMID still lacked 24 transport and attack helicopters crucial for the force's air mobility and firepower.

Mulet however reported some limited progress on working out details of a Status of Force Agreement (SOFA) with Khartoum to govern the presence of UNAMID troops.

"On the SOFA, we have agreed to move this on a fast track mode and we are meeting every day," he noted.

"There is no conclusion to that (SOFA) agreement," Khalilzad said. "Implementation has to take place."

The US envoy stressed that the Security Council did not want to see an ineffective UNAMID take over command next month from the ill-equipped AU force currently in Darfur .

UNAMID is tasked with ending almost five years of bloodshed in which more than 200,000 people are estimated to have died from the effects of war, famine and disease in Darfur , while 2.2 million others have been left homeless.

The Darfur war pits black ethnic groups against Khartoum government troops backed by Arab militias.

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