Holding AK-47 Sudanese Woman Demonstrates Against US Threats
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By SAM HANANEL, Associated Press Writer
Monday, September 25, 2006
(09-25) 18:03 PDT WASHINGTON,(AP)--The House on Monday approved a bill that would impose sanctions on the government of Sudan, as lawmakers warned that tougher action is needed to stem the death and suffering in that nation's Darfur region.
The bill, passed by unanimous consent, authorizes sanctions against anyone President Bush determines is responsible for atrocities and war crimes in the conflict that has left more than 200,000 people dead and 2.5 million homeless since 2003.
The Senate passed a nearly identical measure last week and is expected to endorse the House version this week, sending it to the president's desk for his signature.
Penalties under the measure include blocking assets, refusing to grant Sudanese officials entry to the United States and preventing certain ships from entering U.S. ports. The legislation encourages Bush to deny the government of Sudan oil revenues and access to military equipment.
"This bill will do much to help the death and suffering in Darfur, but we, along with the international community, must do more," said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., who has championed the measure. "Aid workers are being killed and the people they were helping are disappearing. The situation is growing worse each day and the world must continue to help in any way we can."
The measure also asks the United Nations Security Council to suspend the Sudanese government's rights and privileges of membership in the U.N. until it agrees to halt attacks against its people.
Passage of the sanctions bill had stalled over language in the House version that would have encouraged the growing movement in some states to divest from companies doing business with Sudan. The Bush administration insisted the provision be removed due to legal questions of whether state divestment interferes with foreign policy.
The Darfur conflict began when rebels of ethnic Africans revolted against the Arab-led government. The government responded with a brutal suppression and Arab militias, known as the Janjaweed, attacked villages.
Last month, the U.N. Security Council authorized a peacekeeping force for Darfur of about 20,000 troops to bolster a smaller African Union force that is undermanned and underfunded. But the Sudanese government has refused to consent and the region has become more insecure for aid workers trying to help refugees.
"As we stand here ... the Janjaweed militia is continuing to rape and kill, wiping out generations of people in Darfur," said Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., who sponsored the House measure. "It is unacceptable and the world must act."
Bush last week named Andrew Natsios, the former director of the U.S. Agency for International Development, as his special envoy to work for peace in Sudan. Natsios met Monday with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and other lawmakers to discuss his mission and how Congress can continue to work on the issue.
Latest News From Sudan At Sudan.Net
News Article by The Guardian posted on September 24, 2006 at 00:15:11: EST (-5 GMT)
Sorry George Clooney, but the last thing Darfur needs is western troops
The rebels, not Khartoum, scuppered this year's peace deal - the solution has to be an expanded African Union force
September 19, 2006
An air of unreality, if not cant, surrounds the latest upsurge of calls for UN troops to go into Sudan's western region of Darfur. The actor George Clooney takes to the stage at the UN security council, pleading for action. Tony Blair seizes on the issue to write letters to fellow EU leaders. In cities around the world protesters hold a "global day for Darfur" to warn of looming genocide. Is it really possible that western governments, in spite of being burned by their interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, would use force against another Muslim state?
Groups in the west have long campaigned to have the government in Khartoum replaced. In the US the Christian right and some of Israel's friends portray it as an Islamic fundamentalist regime. Human rights activists raise the issue of slavery to suggest that Arab raiders, supported by the government, are routinely abducting Africans from the south to use as human chattel. The Clinton administration listed Sudan as a terrorist-supporting state because Osama bin Laden once lived there.
Against this background it was always going to be hard to expect fair reporting when civil war broke out in Darfur three years ago. The complex grievances that set farmers against nomads was covered with a simplistic template of Arab versus African, even though the region was crisscrossed with tribal and local rivalries that put some villages on the government's side and others against it.
It is true that the government, as often happens in asymmetrical war, overreacted in its use of force when rebels attacked. The so-called janjaweed militias that Khartoum organised and armed did not distinguish between civilians and guerrilla fighters. They burned huts, raped women and put tens of thousands of civilians to flight, forcing them across the border into Chad or into camps inside Darfur. But the rebels also committed atrocities, a fact that was rarely reported since it upset the black-and-white moral image that many editors preferred.
In most wars, governments spin and the media (at least sometimes) seek the truth. Darfur reversed the trend: the media spun while governments were more sophisticated. In spite of efforts to describe the killing in Darfur as genocide, neither the UN nor the EU went along with this description. It was not because of moral myopia, but because they understood the difference between a brutal civil war and a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing. Darfur is not Rwanda. Only the US accepted the genocide description, though this seemed a concession to domestic lobbies rather than a matter of conviction. Washington never followed through with the forcible intervention in Darfur that international law requires once a finding of genocide is made.
Instead, it supported other western governments in encouraging the African Union (AU) to broker peace talks between Khartoum and the rebels. These culminated in May in an agreement that requires the janjaweed to disarm before the rebels do. It also gives Darfur's rebel leaders powers to run the region on their own. Alas, two rebel groups refused to sign. Any fair account of this summer's relapse into war would therefore put most blame on the rebels, whose field commanders recently split into rival groups while their political leaders squabbled in their safe havens in the Eritrean capital, Asmara.
They may have legitimate reasons for arguing that the peace deal did not give enough. Some of the displaced say Khartoum should have to pay families compensation. Others say the peace deal has no enforcement measures and fails to protect people who want to go back to rebuild their villages. But the answer is to conduct more talks, not resume the war. African and western diplomats are trying to get the rebels to think again, but find themselves frustrated by the rebels' feuds. Blair's letter on Darfur was careful to call for pressure on the rebels as well as Khartoum, even though most of the media chose to see it as one-dimensional.
Putting international peace monitors into Darfur to protect the displaced in their camps was vital. Two years ago the Khartoum government accepted this. It allowed the AU to deploy 7,000 troops. But, short of money, helicopters, and other equipment, the AU went along with western governments earlier this year in asking the UN to take over. This is where the debate is now. No one expects that western troops are going to move into Sudan. It has taken weeks to bolster the UN force in Lebanon, while in Afghanistan most Nato members have held back from sending troops into a failing war. In practice, a UN force would be nothing more than the existing AU one with reinforcements, perhaps from India and Bangladesh.
So, behind all the clamour for UN intervention, what is really being discussed is a change in badges. Having AU troops to handle an African problem has symbolic, cultural and political value. But African governments are overstretched, whereas the UN has an established system of subsidising troop- supplying governments. Ironically, given the demands in the US for firm action, it was Congress that recently refused to fund Bush's request for help to the AU.
What of the effort to indict Sudanese leaders before an international court for committing atrocities? Fear of arrest is said to be one reason why Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, has blocked UN troops. Even if a UN force were still 90% African, he might think it could include a western-piloted snatch squad tasked to capture him or his Darfurian lieutenants. If that were the case, the security council resolution that recently called on Khartoum to accept a UN force carefully avoided any reference to international trials. So did an EU statement last week.
In practice, then, there is a good chance that this week's negotiations at the UN will produce a compromise - neither the existing African Union force nor a new UN one, but a hybrid. It could be an AU force with African leadership but under a UN mandate and answerable to the security council. Its contingents might include non-Africans but its mandate would be little different from the current one. After the huffing and puffing of the past few days, this would be a sensible outcome.
Suspicions remain on all sides. Khartoum feels betrayed by the US. After making a peace deal in the south that rules out sharia law and provides for a referendum on secession, it expected US sanctions would be lifted. It felt it had shown it was not fundamentalist or even Islamist since its new government of national unity includes southern Christians and other non-Muslims. As for terrorism, Washington has produced no evidence for a decade.
Meanwhile, many of Khartoum's critics suspect the government has not abandoned its indiscriminate bombing raids and excessive use of force against rebel villages. No foreign peacekeepers, whether AU or UN, can monitor all the vast terrain of Darfur. Sudan's government must discipline its own commanders.
That said, the compromise of an expanded AU force, whether labelled UN or not, is still the best option. The "something must be done" brigade will be upset, but sending foreign troops into Sudan without Khartoum's consent would be nothing short of disaster.
News Article by XINHUA posted on September 25, 2006 at 12:51:21: EST (-5 GMT)
Sudanese President announces travel restrictions on U.S. officials
XINHUA (09/25) -- Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir announced on Sunday a travel ban on U.S. officials, significantly restricting their movement in the Eastern African country.
Under the measures, no American official in Sudan is allowed to travel more than 25 km away from the presidential palace in Khartoum without a special permit, Bashir told a press conference.
"Any American official who comes to Sudan, we will stamp his passport for only 25 km from the presidential palace," he said, adding that the restriction would be effective as of Monday.
Bashir said the move was in response to similar restrictions imposed by the U.S. administration on Sudanese officials in the United States.
"The (U.S.) decision was that any Sudanese official has only 25 km (as a radius) from the White House in Washington," he said.
Relations between the United States and Sudan, which have been soured for years, were further strained in 2005 when Washington described the violence in Darfur, west Sudan, as genocide, a claim vehemently rejected by Khartoum. The U.S. government, along with its Western allies, has been pressuring Sudan to agree to a UN peacekeeping operation in Darfur.
News Article by AP posted on September 25, 2006 at 12:48:43: EST (-5 GMT)
Sudan's president accuses U.S., through U.N., of meddling in Darfur
KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) -- Sudan's president lashed out at the U.S. on Sunday, saying Washington's plans to create a "new Middle East" were behind an international push to replace African Union peacekeepers with U.N. forces in war-ravaged Darfur.
President Omar al-Bashir has always opposed United Nations intervention in Sudan's remote Darfur region, but he escalated his anti-Western rhetoric Sunday, targeting America in an appeal to muster domestic support for what he implied would be a lengthy face-off.
In a speech to cabinet ministers and journalists gathered in Khartoum, he said the United States and Britain wanted to recraft the region in Israel's interests.
"They want to use the Darfur issue to re-colonize Sudan," al-Bashir said defiantly.
The Sudanese leader, just back from an overseas trip to gather support from nonaligned nations and attend the U.N. General Assembly in New York, said Sudanese officials were unfairly scrutinized by U.S. Homeland Security during the visit.
In response, no American official in Sudan would be allowed to travel more than 25 kilometers away from the presidential palace in Khartoum without a special permit, al-Bashir said.
"The measure is effective as of Monday," he said.
The fact that the U.S. wasn't sanctioned for invading Iraq "in breach of every international treaty," nor Israel for "killing thousands of women and children in Lebanon," proves the U.N. is biased, al-Bashir said.
At least 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million chased from their homes in Darfur, an arid remote region of western Sudan where the government-backed Arab Janjaweed militia are blamed for what international observers have called a genocide against ethnic African villagers.
But al-Bashir said the humanitarian crisis there had been overblown by the Western media.
"I challenge any precise statistic that shows the fighting killed more than 10,000 people in Darfur," he said, adding that others may have died from famine.
Al-Bashir again voiced his "total rejection" of the Aug. 31 U.N. Security Council resolution that calls for 20,000 U.N.-commanded soldiers to take over peacekeeping in Darfur.
"The resolution would in effect put Sudan under an international mandate," al-Bashir said. "It negates every institution of the Sudanese state."
Instead, he praised the African Union's extension of its peacekeeping mission in Darfur as "a major victory." The underfunded and ill-equipped AU mission was scheduled to end Sept. 30, but has been extended until at least the end of the year.
African Union officials in Khartoum said Sunday that the AU would send more peacekeeping troops to Darfur region and toughen the soldiers' role in protecting civilians until the U.N. reaches a compromise with the Sudanese government.
"We are being asked to assume a broader and broader mission, but we need the means to do so," Monique Mukaruliza, acting head of the AU mission in Sudan, told The Associated Press.
AU leaders are finalizing plans to add 1,200 soldiers to the existing 7,000-strong force, officials said. Even more soldiers could come if NATO provided adequate logistics support and the Arab League and other international donors provided funding, the officials said.
Officials said AU peacekeepers would soon have new rules of engagement, under which they would not only monitor violence and investigate incidents, but also actively interfere to prevent attacks on civilians by the multiple rebel groups and pro-government militias that plague the region.
The AU's spokesman in Sudan, Nouredinne Mezni, said the new rules would enable peacekeepers to better implement the Darfur Peace Agreement signed in May between Sudan and the main rebel group there.
"With our current resources, we don't really have the means to fully implement the peace agreement," Mezni said.
Jan Pronk, the head of the U.N. in Sudan, said last week that the accord was "in a coma," and international aid groups say violence has only worsened since it was signed.
Infighting among splinter rebel factions is a major cause of the violence, along with a new offensive by the Sudanese military against rebels who refuse to join the peace deal. Khartoum is accused of bombing villages where these groups hide, in effect causing more civilian casualties.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has strongly condemned the escalation, warning that Khartoum was at risk of "disgrace" in Africa for refusing a U.N. peacekeeping force.
Some 100,000 more people have been displaced since the intended cease-fire in May, the U.N. says.
At least a quarter of all people in northern Darfur are now suffering from malnutrition, the U.N. has said. More than 350,000 are largely cut off from food aid and medical care because fighting makes the north too dangerous for aid agencies, U.N. officials say.