WASHINGTON -- More than a month after the hanging of Nigerian human rights campaigner Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Clinton administration is considering how best to strengthen its campaign to isolate Nigeria's military dictatorship in protest against the execution.
The United States has withdrawn its ambassador, suspended Nigeria's application for financial credits, tightened the granting of visas to Nigerians with ties to the military regime of Gen. Sani Abacha, and refused to sell it weapons.
But so far the administration has shied away from using what is potentially the most effective weapon, an embargo on Nigerian oil, which generates 95 percent of the government's foreign income. The United States buys nearly half Nigeria's oil and its European allies buy 40 percent.
"It's very difficult to unilaterally levy an oil embargo against a nation when other countries are reluctant to do so," a State Department official said. State Department officials will meet this week to consider what else they can do. Last week, an influential group of 54 black Americans wrote President Clinton urging an oil embargo against the Nigerian regime. But economists say the cutoff could also drive up gasoline prices here.
The letter to President Clinton asked him to impose economic sanctions against Nigeria, including a freeze on assets held abroad by the military rulers and a prohibition on new investment in the country. The letter was organized by Randall Robinson, president of the private institute Trans-Africa.
The signers included 26 members of the Congressional Black Caucus; the mayors of Atlanta, Denver and Seattle; civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., Coretta Scott King and Joseph Lowery.