NAIROBI, Jan. 8 -- Secretary of State Colin L. Powell declined to say Saturday whether Sudan was still committing genocide through a campaign of killings, rapes and other abuses by government-sponsored Arab militias that have left 1.2 million black Africans homeless in the country's western region of Darfur.
Four months ago, in a dramatic statement, Powell said the government in Khartoum had committed genocide and "genocide may still be occurring."
_____Crisis in Sudan_____
Q&A: Darfur A brief explanation of the issues and current humanitarian situation in Western Sudan.
Photos: Continuing Crisis
Photos: Sudan's Rebels
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Sudan, Southern Rebels Set Date to Sign Pact (The Washington Post, Dec 26, 2004)
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A Peace Force With No Power (The Washington Post, Dec 11, 2004)
Sudan Calls for Normalized U.S. Ties (The Washington Post, Dec 6, 2004)
On Friday, in a 16-page report to the U.N. Security Council, Secretary General Kofi Annan said the situation in Darfur was deteriorating. It charges that the Sudanese government has consistently violated U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding the disarmament, arrest and prosecution of the Arab Janjaweed militia, responsible for carrying out some of the worst atrocities in the region. "On the contrary, they have returned to the practice of including the militia in joint military operations," Annan wrote.
"Impunity continues to prevail in Darfur," the report said. "For two consecutive months, there has been no indication of government action to apprehend and bring to justice Janjaweed leaders in compliance with the repeated demands of the Security Council."
The report noted an increase in violent attacks in December by government and rebel forces against civilians and international aid workers, forcing the World Food Program and other U.N. agencies to scale back their activities. Save the Children's British branch withdrew 350 staff from the region after four aid workers were killed.
Annan said that the reduction in aid comes as the number of civilians requiring assistance has grown to more than 2.2 million people.
But with Sudan's first vice president, Ali Uthman Muhammad Taha, at his side, Powell sidestepped a question by a reporter about whether he believed Sudan was still committing genocide in the region.
"It was my judgment that genocide was taking place," said Powell, who came to Nairobi to witness the signing Sunday of a comprehensive accord ending an unrelated conflict in southern Sudan. "I haven't seen the secretary general's latest report, but I look forward to examining it."
Powell said the southern Sudan peace agreement, which will end Africa's longest-running conflict, should help jump-start efforts to resolve the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. He noted that the Security Council could still impose sanctions against Sudan, "and we do not take any of those options off the table."
Powell said U.S. officials would review its relations with Sudan "step by step," which appeared to indicate any improvement in ties would be linked to progress on Darfur.
The north-south conflict has pitted the northern, Muslim part of the country against the mostly animist and Christian south. The talks involved not only questions of religion and autonomy but also how to distribute resources, especially oil.
Under the agreement, the southern region will have six-years of self-rule before holding a referendum on whether to remain part of Sudan or become independent. John Garang, leader of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army, will become vice president.
Staff writer Colum Lynch at the United Nations contributed to this report.