US to up santions against Sudan

The Bush Administration is set to announce it will be imposing stiffer sanctions against the Khartoum regime in response to the ongoing bloodshed in Darfur. As everyone no doubt knows at this point, the violence has been continuing unabated for the better part of six years without a particularly substantive response from the international community.

Fortunately, advocacy groups have been pushing Washington, the United Nations, and various corporate interests non-stop since 2003 in an attempt to leverage a more dramatic stance against the crimes that President Bush himself has previously referred to as genocide.

U.S. lawmakers and advocacy groups, meanwhile, have criticized the Bush administration for a tepid response to Darfur despite tough rhetoric from the president, and it was uncertain last night whether they would welcome the long-awaited implementation of what has come to be known as “Plan B” for the region. Religious and humanitarian groups, which have pressed states, universities and corporations to disinvest from Sudan, have criticized as insufficient the elements of Plan B.

Bush has been under intense pressure from these groups to do something about the violence in Darfur, which began in 2003 when government-sponsored Arab militias attacked African villages in an effort to quell a rebellion. Eventually, about 2,000 villages were burned, as many as 450,000 people were killed and more than 2.5 million were displaced in continuing violence. The United States labeled it a “genocide” in 2004.

Under the new sanction plan to be announced today, 30 companies owned or controlled by the Sudanese government will be added to the 130 already blocked from using the U.S. financial system. The senior administration official said that the U.S. government has devoted considerable resources in the past six months toward figuring out how to bring greater financial pressure on Sudan, and he noted that with today’s announcement most of the joint ventures responsible for oil production will be under sanctions.

It was reported that Bush was supposed to announce the new sanctions last month while he was speaking at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum but was asked to hold off by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who wanted more time to negotiate with Khartoum.

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