Sudan's bid for a seat on the United Nation's Security Council was a gamble at best—according to U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke—and a gamble the Sudanese "lost both ways."

Months ago the U.S. refused a Sudanese offer to withdraw from the race for the Security Council if the U.S. would agree to lift sanctions against the beleaguered nation. Sudan's decision to fight for a seat on the council despite the U.S.'s rejection of a deal, could now bolster U.S. desire to continue sanctions.

U.N. sanctions were first implemented in 1996, when the nation failed to hand over three men wanted for an assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Murbarak in Ethiopia. Relations with the U.S. particularly have only worsened since. In 1998 the U.S. destroyed a Sudanese chemical plant that had links to Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden, who is accused of terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

"I think this is a tremendous victory for reason in the U.N. and a total repudiation of Sudan," Holbrooke said after Mauritius beat out Sudan in the fourth round of General Assembly voting, 113 to 55.

Sudanese Ambassador Elfatih Mohamed Erwa told the Associated Press that the elections were clearly determined by U.S. lobbying on Mauritius's behalf.

"We were not running against Mauritius. We were running against a superpower," Erwa said.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) applauded Sudan's defeat as " a victory for religious freedom and human rights." Since 1998 the council has identified Sudan as a "country of particular concern" for the religious war its Muslim regime has waged against Animists and Christians in southern Sudan.

"This is a message to the government in Khartoum that civilized nations condemn its horrendous record of human rights violations, including aerial bombing of civilians and aid centers, use of starvation as a weapon of war, toleration of slave raids, and its foot-dragging in peace talks," declared Elliot Abrams, USCIRF chairman.

The USCIRF has developed a 12-month plan for Congress to implement with Sudan. If the nation improves some of its current human rights violations, sanctions could be eased, but it if there are no forthcoming improvements, the USCIRF plan calls for the U.S. to begin supplying non-lethal aid to opposition groups within Sudan.

Related Elsewhere

Don't miss our 1999 cover story "Redeeming Sudan's Slaves."

Other Christianity Today stories on Sudan include:

Sudan Relief Operations Endangered | Rebel demands cause agencies to curtail efforts. (April 3, 2000)

Bombs Continue to Fall on Ministry Hospitals in Sudan | Samaritan's Purse hit for fourth time, two killed in Voice of the Martyrs bombing. (March 24, 2000)

Protest Begins as White House Rethinks Policy on Sudan Regime | Religious leaders urge Clinton administration to act against oppression. (Feb. 10, 2000)

Media coverage of Sudan's bid for Security Council includes:

Colombia, Ireland, Mauritius, Norway, Singapore win Security Council seats—CNN (Oct. 11, 2000)

5 nations elected to Security CouncilThe Boston Globe (Oct. 11, 2000)

Mauritius defeats Sudan in U.N. seatThe Washington Times (Oct. 11, 2000)

Washington's Lobbying Keeps Sudan Out of UN Security CouncilInternational Herald Tribune (Oct. 11, 2000)

Mauritius Elected to Represent Africa in UN Security Council—AfricaNews (Oct. 10, 2000)