UNITED NATIONS — Secretary-General Ban's attempt this week to marshal international help for Darfur victims suffered serious setbacks as an Arab League summit in Riyadh, as well as at the U.N.'s own Human Rights Council, declined to exert any pressure on Khartoum.
Mr. Ban, who visited the Arab League summit in Riyadh yesterday, told Arab heads of state that he expected support for a U.N. plan to send 20,000 troops to Darfur, where according to America, genocide is taking place.
The summit's host, Saudi Arabia, mostly promoted issues such as a five-year-old plan for resolving the Palestinian Arab dispute with Israel, and the revival of a decades-old Arab military cooperation pact. Little interest was shown for Darfur. Another Arab League member, Egypt, declined earlier this week to join Mr. Ban in pressuring neighboring Sudan.
Telling Arab leaders that they could play a positive role in leaning on Khartoum, Mr. Ban said yesterday that the U.N. plan to start deploying peacekeepers in Darfur "should go ahead expeditiously."
Late last night, Mr. Ban met behind closed doors with Saudi King Abdullah, Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa, and several Arab heads of state, as well as Sudan's President Bashir. Arab League members, who represent the region's traditional Sunni sensibilities, have traditionally been hesitant to exert pressure on one of their own.
Mr. Bashir made clear once more yesterday that he would consider any U.N. deployment in Darfur as "a violation for Sudan's sovereignty." Foreign troops, he said, would "provoke the conflict in Darfur, instead of finding a solution for it."
Instead, Mr. Bashir signed an agreement allowing U.N. aid workers into his country. However, U.N. officials noted yesterday that Mr. Bashir had signed, and violated, four similar pacts in recent months.
"I am cautiously pleased that this agreement has been signed and publicized," the U.N. humanitarian coordinator, John Holmes, told the Associated Press while visiting Darfur refugees in neighboring Chad.
"Whether they will actually implement what they say" is the question, he said.
In Geneva, meanwhile, European diplomats yesterday tried to convince the 47-member Human Rights Council to pass its first, albeit watered-down, resolution on violations in Darfur. A proposal distributed by Germany this week omits any Sudanese government responsibility for Darfur atrocities. A weaker African-backed proposal fails to even mention violations in the region.
Neither proposal endorses the conclusions of a fact-finding mission that the council itself sent to Darfur last month. The mission, headed by Nobel laureate Jody Williams, was banned by Khartoum from entering the country. In its report, the mission cited Sudan's government for "manifest failure in its responsibility to protect civilians" in Darfur.
"The Europeans want to save face, so they are willing to compromise even their own weak proposal," said the president of the rights organization U.N. Watch, Hillel Neuer. Mr. Neuer has criticized the council for passing eight resolutions criticizing Israel — and planning to pass three more this week — while failing to condemn any other country, including Sudan.
Yesterday, the Geneva-based Mr. Neuer convened a meeting on human rights in Sudan, inviting representatives of interested nongovernmental organizations. Instead, he told The New York Sun, most of those who came were representatives of Sudan's government-backed NGOs.
Earlier this week, Mr. Neuer chided council members, saying, "In truth, the dictators who run this council couldn't care less about Palestinians, or about any human rights." The council's president, Luis Alfonso de Alba of Mexico, admonished Mr. Neuer, saying he would strike similar statements in the future from the council's official record.
The threat proved hollow, as a videotaped record of the exchange became the top item on the video Web site YouTube this week.