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Bush threatens Sudan with new punishments

President Bush said Wednesday that the United States will tighten economic sanctions and impose new punishments if Sudan fails to take concrete action to stop the bloodshed in Darfur.
/ Source: The Associated Press

President Bush, increasing pressure on Sudan, said Wednesday the U.S. will tighten economic penalties and impose new ones if Sudan’s leader does not act quickly to stop the bloodshed in Darfur.

Bush said Omar al-Bashir’s government must allow U.N. support forces, facilitate deployment of a full U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force, end support of militias and let humanitarian aid get through.

“The world needs to act,” Bush said. “If President al-Bashir does not meet his obligations, the United States of America will act.”

Bush said the U.S. would bar certain companies from participating in the U.S. financial system, punish individuals responsible for violence and issue new penalties against Sudan’s government.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in the four-year conflict. It began when rebels from ethnic African tribes rose up against the Arab-led central government. The Khartoum government is accused of responding by unleashing the janjaweed militias of Arab nomads, who are blamed for indiscriminate killing. The government denies the charges.

“It is evil we’re now seeing in Sudan and we’re not going to back down,” Bush said.

Feingold wants actionSen. Russ Feingold, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, said Congress has called for many of the steps Bush outlined.

“What is needed now is their quick and effective implementation and enforcement,” said Feingold, D-Wis. “We are long past the point of warnings.”

The current force of 7,000 AU peacekeepers has been unable to stop the fighting. About 2.5 million people have been driven from their homes and are living in poorly protected camps in the province and eastern Chad.

The United Nations and U.S. have pushed Sudan to accept thousands more U.N. troops to build up a combined AU-U.N. force of 20,000. Al-Bashir repeatedly has rejected a U.N. force, but his recent agreement to accept 3,000 U.N. troops could be a sign that the pressure is beginning to have an effect.

Broken promisesSudan’s government, however, has reversed position in the past after appearing to agree to a peacekeeping mission.

“His regime makes promises, signs agreements and makes pledges — only to hedge, qualify and renege on their commitments,” said David C. Rubenstein, director of the Save Darfur Coalition. “President Bashir has been one broken promise after another, and we fear this concession may be an extension of that trend.”

Bush said he wants to give U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon more time to pursue diplomatic efforts. But Bush said the U.S. would take action if al-Bashir does not move quickly. Bush did not say how long he would wait.

The Treasury Department will tighten economic penalties, allowing the Bush administration to block any of the Sudan government’s dollar transactions in the U.S. Also, 29 companies owned or controlled by the Sudanese government will join a list that makes it a crime for American companies and individuals to do business with them.

People held responsible for the violence in Darfur will face similar financial penalties, “calling the world’s attention to their crimes,” Bush said.

Rice to draft new resolution
Bush is directing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to prepare a U.N. Security Council resolution for new penalties against Sudan’s government and those found to be violating human rights or obstructing peace.

The resolution would expand an embargo on arms sales, prohibit Sudan’s government from conducting offensive military flights over Darfur and strengthen the U.S. ability to monitor and report any violations, Bush said.

The U.S. on Thursday planned to send a senior diplomat to South Africa, which now holds the presidency of the Security Council. Assistant Secretary of State Kristen Silverberg will focus on Darfur, as did Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte during his recent trip to Sudan, Chad, Libya and Mauritania.

“That kind of diplomatic interaction is going to be replicated all around the globe, with the thought in mind that we may well have to act on a Security Council resolution,” department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters. “This is designed to send a clear message of the seriousness of our intent.”

Remembering the Holocaust
Bush spoke at the U.S. Holocaust Museum to a crowd that included Holocaust survivors. He honored Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor who died trying to keep a gunman from shooting his students in the killing spree at Virginia Tech. Librescu, an aeronautics engineer and teacher at the school for 20 years, saved the lives of several students by using his body to barricade a classroom door before he was gunned down in Monday’s massacre.

“We take strength from his example,” Bush said.

This week marks the National Days of Remembrance of the Holocaust in which Nazi Germany and its collaborators killed an estimated 6 million Jews.

When the president arrived at the museum, several dozen demonstrators were outside pleading for more urgent action to resolve the crisis in Darfur, where thousands of people are dying each month from a lack of food, water, health care and shelter in the desert.

Before Bush spoke, he viewed an exhibit on anti-Semitism and one titled “Genocide Emergency Darfur: Who will survive today?” He looked at photographs of refugees and victims from the region and saw satellite imagery of the region on a computer.