Sudan's Darfur region is sliding back into chaos amid a surge in attacks on civilians and could again be engulfed by the type of indiscriminate violence that made it one of the world's worst humanitarian disasters two years ago, a top U.N. envoy warned.
Juan Mendez, the U.N. special adviser on the prevention of genocide, said Monday the only reason why there had not been more violence against villagers in Darfur was that there were no more villagers to attack. Some 2 million have gathered in camps and are entirely dependent on humanitarian aid.
"We have not turned the corner," Mendez told reporters days after returning from a trip to the region and delivering a report to the U.N. Security Council. "I found the situation much more dangerous and worrisome than I expected it to be."
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton raised the possibility of new sanctions against Sudan, saying the council needed to do more about worsening security. He later told The Associated Press that one possibility was to put more controls on weapons flowing into the country.
In March, the council strengthened an arms embargo and imposed an asset freeze and travel ban on those who defy peace efforts. It also referred Sudan to the International Criminal Court, the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal.
Yet the Sudanese government isn't cooperating with the ICC and the sanctions appear not to be working.
"Sanctions were put in before, it's not clear they're being adhered to," Bolton told AP. "The question (is) whether we should do something else in that area in terms of arms into the country."
Fighting in Sudan began when rebels from black African tribes took up arms in Darfur in February 2003. The government is accused of unleashing Arab tribal militia known as the Janjaweed against civilians in a campaign of murder, rape and arson. At least 180,000 people have died _ many from hunger and disease.
Much of that violence has died down since 2004. But Mendez warned in his report that major international measures were not working and Sudan continued to defy the council's will.
He said foreign donors must make good on their promises of money and equipment to African Union peacekeepers. Sudan also has blocked 70 of 105 armored personnel carriers for the AU troops and refused to allow NATO in to train AU troops, Mendez said in his report to the council.
Mendez wanted to brief the council on that report, and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had asked the council to hear him. But that request was blocked by the United States and three Sudanese allies, China, Russia and Algeria, according to council diplomats.
Bolton said the council had already heard a briefing from another official, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Hedi Annabi, and didn't need another.
"One question is how many officials from the (U.N.) Secretariat does it take to give a briefing?" Bolton said, later adding: "The notion that we just talk some more about it in many respects is a cover for inaction, and I don't think that's really what the council should be doing."
That stance drew an angry response from France, whose ambassador said that Mendez should have been allowed to speak.
"I strongly regret and deplore that Mr. Mendez ... was not authorized to brief the council today," France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere said. "The majority of the delegations wished to hear what Mr. Mendez had to say.", AP reported.