UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Bowing to opposition on the U.N. Security Council, the United States dropped the word “sanctions” from a draft resolution on Sudan on Thursday, but kept a threat of economic action if Khartoum fails to disarm Arab militias blamed for widespread atrocities in the western region of Darfur.

The Security Council was to vote Friday on the resolution, which was revised four times in a week as the United States sought to overcome objections to the threat of sanctions, stressing the need to act urgently.

Meanwhile, violence continued in Darfur, where at least 30,000 people have been killed and more than 1 million displaced as pro-government militias known as Janjaweed staged a brutal campaign to drive out black African farmers in a 17-month conflict over dwindling resources.

An African Union monitoring team reported that militias “believed to be Janjaweed,” had chained civilians together and set them on fire earlier this month.

The Americans insisted the change in the resolution text did not weaken it, saying they hoped for unanimous approval to send a clear message to Khartoum that it will face consequences if it doesn’t stop the violence in Darfur.

“It’s the potential of sanctions in 30 days,” U.S. Ambassador John Danforth said. “It really takes no teeth out of it. It’s simply a verbal change.”

The resolution got a boost when France, Spain, Britain, Chile and Germany agreed to co-sponsor it. But aid agencies said it wasn’t tough enough and warned the crisis in Sudan was deteriorating rapidly.

Pakistan, China and Russia have argued that Sudan needs more time to end the killings, rapes and pillaging by the pro-government militias, which some have called ethnic cleansing and even genocide.

Officials from several delegations, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Pakistan, Russia and China still had reservations, but they expected the minimum nine “yes” votes could be achieved and a veto avoided.

The Pakistani mission at the United Nations said it was awaiting instructions from Islamabad. Sudanese diplomats could not be reached for comment.

In Kuwait, Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters the United States had agreed to change the wording in the draft resolution to make it acceptable to a broader number of Security Council members.

He acknowledged concern from Egypt and other countries that too much pressure on the Sudanese government could cause internal problems that would make the situation worse. “At the same time, everybody recognizes that pressure is needed or else we wouldn’t get any action at all,” Powell said.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his native Ghana for an African summit, made a separate appeal to the Sudanese government to “abide immediately by its commitments,” to protect refugees from the conflict in Darfur.

A statement from his office said Annan was “gravely concerned about reports of continuing intimidation, threats and attacks against internally displaced persons in Darfur.”

The statement added that “government security personnel” have been threatening internal refugees.

The new draft resolution still calls on Sudan to disarm the Arab militias and would impose an arms embargo on individuals, groups or governments that supply the Arab militias or black African rebel groups.

It requires Annan to report every 30 days “and expresses its intention to consider further actions, including measures as provided for in Article 41 of the (U.N. Charter) on the Government of Sudan in the event of noncompliance.”

The previous text had specifically threatened “the imposition of sanctions.”

While Article 41 does not authorize the use of armed force, it could be used to authorize “complete or partial interruption of economic relations … and the severance of diplomatic relations.”

The Darfur conflict stems from long-standing tensions between nomadic Arab tribes and their African neighbors over water and farmland. Those tensions exploded into violence in February 2003 when two African rebel groups took up arms over what they regard as unjust treatment by the government.

AP-ES-07-29-04 1818EDT

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