Egypt issues warning against Sudan sanctions threats
CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt warned the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council on Thursday not to threaten Sudan with fresh sanctions over Darfur, calling instead for confidence-building measures and dialogue.
Egypt made the call a day after the United States and Britain, cranking up pressure on Khartoum, threatened sanctions and other punitive measures unless Sudan agrees to a robust U.N. peacekeeping force in war-torn Darfur.
Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said he sent the warning in a series of "urgent messages" to the foreign ministers of the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia.
Egypt is Sudan’s northern neighbour and has longstanding cultural and political ties with Sudan.
The United Nations says at least 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced since violence flared in Darfur in 2003 in ethnic and political conflict. The violence has since spilled over to neighbouring Chad and Central African Republic.
Sudan agreed on Monday to an interim support package in which 3,000 U.N. personnel and heavy support equipment including six attack helicopters would reinforce a 7,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur.
But Sudan has refused to admit a larger "hybrid" force of more than 20,000 U.N. and African Union troops and police that Western powers say is needed to stem the violence.
Aboul Gheit said: "It would have been expected and logical for the international community to greet Sudan’s agreement to the light and heavy support package … with a welcome and encouragement instead of a threat and pressure."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said talks would begin on Thursday on a new Security Council resolution on Darfur.
Among new U.N. sanctions under consideration are an arms embargo, monitoring flights at Sudanese airports and adding names to a list of government, rebel and militia leaders subject to financial and travel bans.
U.N. ambassadors from Russia and China have said they do not believe the time for sanctions is right.