Bush Steps Up Pressure on Sudan over Darfur

President Bush announces new sanctions aimed at pressuring Sudan to stop the violence in Darfur. He ordered a range of U.S. sanctions against Sudanese companies and individuals and will pursue stronger sanctions at the United Nations, as well.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

President Bush today announced new sanctions aimed at pressuring Sudan to stop the violence in Darfur.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: 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. My administration has called these acts by their rightful name - genocide.

MONTAGNE: Speaking at the White House, President Bush ordered a range of sanctions against Sudanese companies and individuals. NPR's Michele Kelemen joins us now.

And what are the details, Michele, of these sanctions?

MICHELE KELEMEN: Well, you know, the U.S. already has a lot of sanctions on Sudan, so what President Bush is doing is he's stepping up enforcement of these existing sanctions and he's adding the names of 31 companies that are now going to be barred from any dollar transactions in the U.S. financial system. Most of these companies are state-owned. He also mentioned one in particular that was a transport company that's been, he said, transferring weapons to the Janjaweed militia. That's the government-backed militia accused of carrying out most of the atrocities in Darfur.

The president's actions also targeted three individuals. Two of them are from the government: Ahmed Mohamed Haroun, who's Sudan's state minister for humanitarian affairs. He's also, by the way, been accused of war crimes by the International Criminal Court. And there's also Sudan's head of military intelligence and security. His name is Awad Ibn Auf. The third individual is actually a rebel leader. His name is Khalil Ibrahim. He heads the justice and inequality movement, and that's one of the rebel groups that did not sign the Darfur peace agreement last year.

The third track that President Bush is working on now is also pursuing a new Security Council resolution in Sudan.

MONTAGNE: And that debate at the U.N., how difficult of a debate will that be?

KELEMEN: Well, the U.S. has had quite some trouble getting any meaningful sanctions at the U.N. to date. China is a permanent Security Council member with veto power. It's a major business partner of Sudan involved in the oil industry. And Russia also has sold military hardware to Sudan. And both are, you know, reluctant to pass sanctions. In fact, a Chinese official was quoted today of saying expanding these sanctions can only make the problem more difficult.

MONTAGNE: Now, it's been almost three years since the administration called what was happening and is happening in Darfur genocide. Why make this announcement now?

KELEMEN: Well, you know, to answer that, we do have to look back a little bit on this time. You said it was three years. The conflict has been going on for four years. And the U.N. Security Council passed last year a resolution to set up a peacekeeping force. Sudan is not going to accept it. It says it wants the U.N. to just help the African Union instead. The African Union has a small monitoring force on the ground.

As of now, this idea toward the end of last year was emerging that you'd have this joint A.U.-U.N. force. The U.N. has been trying to negotiate this. The U.S. said time was running out. In fact, six weeks ago President Bush said, I'm going to impose all these sanctions but I'm going to give the U.N. some more time to negotiate.

MONTAGNE: Michele, any response...

KELEMEN: And increasingly he's been frustrated.

MONTAGNE: Just - sorry - asking you about the response from the government of Sudan, just briefly.

KELEMEN: Well, also Sudan is rejecting this, saying, you know, we're cooperating now and you shouldn't do this at this point.

MONTAGNE: Thanks very much. NPR's Michele Kelemen.

KELEMEN: You're welcome.

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