U.S. steps up the pressure against Sudan over Darfur

Bush orders new sanctions on firms tied to government

May 30, 2007|By Mark Silva and Paul Salopek | Mark Silva and Paul Salopek,Chicago Tribune

WASHINGTON -- With the Bush administration ordering new sanctions against the government of Sudan yesterday, experts said any hope of alleviating suffering in the war-torn Darfur region will depend on the questionable ability of the United States to gain broader international support.

President Bush, declaring that the United States "will not avert our eyes" from a crisis that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced at least 2 million others, imposed a ban on Americans doing business with 31 mostly government-controlled Sudanese businesses, two leaders of the Sudanese government and a rebel chief.

Bush, who warned Sudan this year that he would take action if President Omar al-Bashir failed to make way for a broader peacekeeping force in Darfur, said he also will seek tougher sanctions from the United Nations Security Council, including an arms embargo and a ban on Sudanese military flights over Darfur.

Critics and activists minimized the actions as greatly insufficient, saying Sudanese businesses are adept at finding ways around such sanctions. And they warned that it would be tough to secure any new sanctions from the United Nations since China, a Security Council member and significant trading partner of Sudan, opposes new restrictions.

Yet some analysts also said the Bush administration's stepped-up pressure on Sudan, following through on a warning issued in April, could help compel the Khartoum government to accommodate a 23,000-member force of U.N. and African Union peacekeepers, something it has resisted.

"It may not be what turns Khartoum around,"' said Jennifer Cooke, co-director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "But it does up the pressure."

Bush had refrained from taking these steps while the new U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki Moon, sought to persuade Sudan through diplomacy to accept a broader peacekeeping force. But the White House ultimately concluded that Sudan's continued inaction demanded a stronger reaction.

"For too long, the people of Darfur have suffered at the hands of a government that is complicit in the bombing, murder and rape of innocent civilians," Bush said yesterday, again describing the conflict as a "genocide." "I promise this to the people of Darfur: The United States will not avert our eyes to a crisis that challenges the conscience of the world."

Sudan has been racked by civil war for decades. In western Darfur, the fighting has pitted mostly black African farming tribes against the Arab-dominated central government, which has used an Arab militia called the janjaweed to attack rebels and ordinary villagers. More than 200,000 people have died, many from disease and hunger.

The U.S. Treasury Department formally barred 31 Sudanese companies - including the largest government-run petrochemical businesses and Sudan's telecommunications company - from doing business with U.S. banks, companies or individuals.

The United States imposed the same ban against Awad ibn Auf, director of Sudan's military intelligence and security; Ahmad Muhammed Harun, Sudan's state minister for humanitarian affairs; and Khalil Ibraham Taha, leader of a rebel group known as the Justice and Equality Movement, which has refused to sign a Darfur peace agreement.

Andrew Natsios, Bush's special envoy to Darfur, insisted the sanctions would have an impact. "It's very powerful and it does make a difference," he said. "And the Sudanese have been trying for one month to stop this from happening.

Mark Silva and Paul Salopek write for the Chicago Tribune.

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