Bush Warns Sudan During Holocaust Museum Visit

President Bush reiterates threats to impose sanctions against Sudan, which the U.S. says has ignored ethnic genocide in the Darfur region. The president made the comments while touring the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

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DEBORAH AMOS, host:

This week marks the days of remembrance, a time to honor those killed during the Holocaust. In a few moments, we'll hear about the first Arab to be honored for saving Jews during World War II. First, a visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum here in Washington put the spotlight on a modern-day genocide. That's what President Bush called the killing in Darfur, Sudan, yesterday when he toured the museum.

The U.S. has been pressuring Sudan to allow in a larger peacekeeping force to disarm the militias that have killed hundreds of thousands of people there.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN: President Bush says he has a whole list of targeted sanctions the U.S. is ready to impose on Sudanese officials and companies, but he's holding off for a bit after Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, made a new promise to let the United Nations helped beef up African troops monitoring the crisis in Darfur.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: President Bashir's record has been to promise cooperation while finding new ways to subvert and obstruct the U.N.'s efforts to bring peace to his country. The time for promises is over; President Bashir must act.

KELEMEN: A confidential U.N. report this week accused Sudan of sending weapons and military equipment into Darfur, and using planes painted white to make them look like U.N. aircraft to bomb villages. President Bush spoke about this as well after touring the Holocaust Memorial Museum's special exhibit on Darfur.

President BUSH: No one who sees these pictures can doubt that genocide is the only word for what is happening in Darfur and that we have a moral obligation to stop it.

Mr. FRED ZEIDMAN (Chairman, Governing Council, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum): He's really put a stake on the ground on behalf of the United States. And, I mean, how could we be more proud than to have it done here at our museum.

KELEMEN: That's Fred Zeidman, chairman of the governing council of the museum. He says the president saw one of the newest features of the exhibit: a computer that uses Google Earth to zoom in on the destruction in Darfur.

Mr. ZEIDMAN: We had it set on the White House, and it basically drew back from the White House, circled the Earth, showed the African continent. We have highlighted every one of the camps, and every one of cities and villages that's been destroyed. So we zeroed in on that, showed him a couple of the pictures of some of the burnout villages.

KELEMEN: Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel was also with the president and says Mr. Bush seemed moved and motivated.

Mr. ELIE WIESEL (Nobel Laureate): Darfur today is the capital of human suffering in the world. And myself and the president found that, too.

KELEMEN: Asked if the speech was too late four years into the conflict, Wiesel was philosophical.

Mr. WIESEL: I am a Jew who believes in daily miracles. If such a miracle occurs, rather than speak about why it's so late, I say thank you, finally it's being done.

KELEMEN: Activists from the Save Darfur Coalition were less impressed. They say they had been led to believe the president would actually be taking action, imposing sanctions, not just talking about them. And they intend to keep up their highly visible media campaign to tell the White House the clock is ticking to stop the genocide.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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