SUDAN Crime and no punishment 15th April 2005 Western governments send Khartoum officials for trial one week and promise them aid the next The bizarre spectacle of Vice-President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha glad-handing Western politicians at the International Donors' Conference in Oslo on 11-12 April highlighted the confusion among European and United States' policy makers about how to handle Khartoum's National Islamic Front regime. A week earlier, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) had voted overwhelmingly in favour of referring 51 individuals, several of them said to be senior NIF officials, for prosecution on charges of crimes against humanity in Darfur at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Since early 2003, when the government launched its bloody offensive in Darfur, using its own soldiers and air force and 'Arab' militias, NIF strongman Ali Osman has directed the operation now said by a British parliamentary enquiry to have cost around 300,000 civilian lives. Amid the cheering at the Oslo meeting when Western states pledged an unexpectedly high total of US$4.5 billion, Western officials reiterated their criticism of Khartoum's operations in Darfur. A smiling Ali Osman chillingly told BBC journalists that getting Darfur 'under control' would receive his 'highest priority'.