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by Jim Lobe

Bush Acknowledges Darfur Genocide - But No Plans To Stop It

(IPS) WASHINGTON -- While political pressure is building on Bush to do more to stop what he calls "genocide" in Darfur, recent events suggest that the National Islamic Front (NIF) government of Sudan is not particularly concerned.

One sign of the regime's confidence was its decision to block the scheduled visit this week to Darfur by the UN's chief aid official, Jan Egeland -- a move that the State Department denounced as "deeply disturbing."

The fact that it came on the eve of a long-awaited vote in the House of Representatives to expand existing U.S. diplomatic and economic sanctions against Sudan to include measures against specific officials and leaders of Arab militias responsible for the violence in Darfur added to the sense that the regime is in a defiant mood.

"This is not a regime that is showing any signs of bowing to international pressure," noted Eric Reeves, a Smith College professor who has played a leading role in pushing Washington toward stronger action against Khartoum.

Reeves is especially critical of the Bush administration which, despite its tough rhetoric against the regime, has failed to follow through by investing the political and diplomatic capital needed to rally the international community behind a strategy that would force Khartoum to end the violence and ease the humanitarian crisis created by it.

Since the regime launched a counter-insurgency campaign in Darfur three years ago, an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 people -- virtually all of them members of predominantly African tribes -- are believed to have died, and more than two million people have been displaced from their homes.

In recent months, the violence, mainly carried out by government-supported militias called the Janjaweed, has spilled over into Chad, displacing tens of thousands more people in that country.

The situation in Darfur, which the Bush administration first labeled genocide almost two years ago, has spurred widespread concern across the political spectrum here in the U.S. -- as shown by Congressionally-enacted sanctions, as well as a student- and clergy-led divestment campaign directed against foreign companies with large investments in Sudan that has spread like wildfire since it began just 18 months ago. (A U.S. law passed several years ago bars investment by U.S. companies in Sudan.)

So far, 10 universities, including the mammoth University of California system that has a 66-billion-dollar endowment, and four U.S. states have directed their financial officers to sell hundreds of millions of dollars in shares of companies like Petrochina, Alstom, Alcatel, Siemens and other corporations that do business with Khartoum. A dozen more states are currently considering similar legislation.

On Wednesday, the House voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act -- 416 to 3. In addition to requiring the administration to impose diplomatic and financial sanctions against specific high-ranking Sudanese officials and Janjaweed leaders named in a confidential UN report, it also provides additional money for the under-manned and under-equipped African Union peacekeeping operation (AMIS) that has tried to contain the violence in a region the size of France.

The Act, a similar version of which passed the Senate earlier this year, also includes a provision calling for Bush to prevent cargo ships or oil tankers engaged in trade with Sudan from docking at U.S. ports and to suspend economic aid to countries that sell arms to the government.

"We welcome the action by Congress today as a clear statement that the United States has to do more," said Donald Steinberg, vice president of the International Crisis Group (ICG), which has urged Washington to lead international efforts, particularly at the UN Security Council, aimed at ending the violence.

The ICG, as well as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, has called for AMIS to be incorporated into a significantly larger UN force that would be given a much stronger mandate under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter than AMIS has had to protect itself and civilians from attack by the Janjaweed or other forces.

In addition, it has called for NATO, which has provided mainly logistical support to the African operation, to help constitute a "bridging force" that could be deployed until the larger UN peacekeeping force reached full strength.

Bush himself appeared to endorse the plan after meeting with Annan in February when he called for doubling the number of peacekeepers and boosting NATO's role in the operation.

"(I)t's going to require, I think, a NATO stewardship, planning, facilitating, organising, probably double the number of peacekeepers that are there now in order to start bringing some sense of security," he told a Florida audience in what was widely seen as a new level of commitment by Washington to end the conflict.

He repeated his support for the plan as recently as last week during a press conference with visiting Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has chaired thus-far inconclusive peace talks between Khartoum and rebel groups in Abuja over the past year.

But what specific steps Washington and its NATO allies have been willing to take to implement the plan is much less clear.

"Bush is apparently posturing," according to Reeves. "There is really nothing behind these words of NATO stewardship. The word out of (NATO headquarters in) Brussels is that 'we're going to continue doing what we've been doing' -- which is clearly not remotely enough."

Worse, Washington has suffered a series of diplomatic reversals in gaining international support for the plan. While its ambassador at the UN, John Bolton, succeeded in early February in getting the Security Council to begin planning for an eventual UN. operation, he has thus far failed to push through a resolution authorizing such a force.

In another setback, the African Union last month decided to delay the UN's absorption of AMIS until next fall, and then only if certain conditions are satisfied, including Sudan's acceptance of the larger force, which currently looks highly unlikely.

Khartoum scored a second victory last week when it hosted an Arab League summit that backed up its demand that a UN force could not be in Darfur without its permission. The summit was followed by yet another diplomatic coup Tuesday when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a staunch U.S. ally, visited Khartoum for talks with Pres. Omar al-Bashir for the first time in more than a decade.

These developments suggest to some analysts that the administration has not been willing to use the considerable influence it has in Africa and the Arab world -- and on the Security Council -- to ensure a swift transition a robust UN force.

"We think the language coming out of the administration is admirable, but the actions have been inadequate," Steinberg told IPS, adding, "The administration has to put more diplomatic muscle behind its approach."

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Albion Monitor   April 5, 2006   (

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