Bush imposes new sanctions on Sudan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — President George W. Bush imposed new US sanctions on Sudan on Tuesday and sought support for an international arms embargo out of frustration at Sudan’s refusal to end what he called a genocide in Darfur.

“The people of Darfur are crying out for help, and they deserve it,” Bush said.

Accusing the Sudanese government of obstructing UN efforts to bring peace to Darfur, Bush said the US treasury department will bar 31 companies controlled by Sudan from doing business in the US financial system. The companies targeted included firms in Sudan’s booming oil business and one that has been transporting weapons to the Sudanese government and militia forces in Darfur. Bush also imposed economic sanctions on four Sudanese individuals, including two senior Sudanese officials and a rebel leader suspected of involvement in the Darfur violence.

Khartoum criticised the sanctions before they were even formally announced.

“I think these sanctions are not justified. It is not timely. We are cooperating well with the United Nations,” Mutrif Siddig, Sudanese undersecretary for foreign affairs, told Reuters in Khartoum.

The ratcheting up of US pressure coincides with a broader effort by UN officials to get Sudan to end the conflict in which more than 200,000 people have died and two million have been driven from their homes since 2003.

Khartoum says 9,000 have died and rejects accusations of genocide.

Bush directed US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to consult with Britain and other allies on pursuing new UN Security Council sanctions against Sudan that would impose an expanded arms embargo on Sudan’s government.

“It will prohibit the Sudanese government from conducting any offensive military flights over Darfur. It will strengthen our ability to monitor and report any violations,” Bush said.

UN reaction

China, a major consumer of Sudan’s oil, was sceptical. In Beijing, China’s representative on African affairs, Liu Guijin, said: “Expanding sanctions can only make the problem more difficult to resolve.” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has been talking to Sudanese leaders, refused to comment directly on the sanctions but indicated they may interfere with his consultations with Sudanese leaders. “I need some more time,” he said.

Russia and South Africa were also wary such action would stop violence in Darfur. South Africa’s UN Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo urged patience and questioned the timing because of Ban’s talks, saying “It’s not clear which way we are going.” But the European Union expressed a willingness to discuss tougher sanctions. “We are open to consider that,” EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said at an EU meeting in Hamburg.

Andrew Natsios, the US special envoy for Darfur, told reporters China may be more sympathetic to the US position than its public statements suggest.

“We have many indications that the Chinese position is evolving. They have been much more helpful than may be apparent publicly,” Natsios said.

Bush has expressed frustration at the international community’s inability to force Sudan to stop attacks by Arab militias widely believed to be supported by the government.

He had wanted to announce the new sanctions six weeks ago but was convinced to let Ban have more time to conduct diplomacy.

Bush urged Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, to let international peacekeepers into Darfur. Bashir has stalled for months in accepting UN packages to support an African Union peacekeeping force of 7,000 that are seen as a prelude to a larger hybrid force of more than 23,000 troops and police.

Democratic lawmakers generally supported Bush’s move but called it too late.

“The president’s announcement imposing new sanctions on Sudan is a dollar short and months late,” said California Democratic Rep. Tom Lantos, chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.

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