US President George Bush’s envoy to Sudan said the US administration is preparing to impose new economic sanctions to counter Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s refusal to allow UN peacekeepers to deploy in Darfur.
Pending Bush’s final approval, envoy Andrew Natsios said, Sudanese companies will be subject to sanctions and international transactions involving US dollars will be blocked.
“I don’t want to presuppose the decision that the president is going to make,” he said. “It is pretty clear the president is angrier than anyone else. He gets very upset when he talks to me about the situation. He gets very frustrated by it.”
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the world will have to consider new options, possibly further action by the United Nations.
“Of course the international community is going to have to look at other options. We are, indeed, looking at other options, including options that might require further UN action,” Rice told reporters after a discussion at the US state department with Israel’s foreign minister, Tzipi Livni.
“It’s simply the case that the Sudanese government needs to recognise that the international community can’t stand idly by while people suffer, while we’re unable to deliver humanitarian assistance to people and while the violence against innocent civilians continues.”
Al-Bashir made known his disapproval of the UN plan in a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, details of which emerged earlier this week.
Under the plan a hybrid UN-African Union force totalling 22,000 military and civilian personnel are to be deployed in Darfur.
“I was stunned by the letter,” Natsios said, adding it was practically an invitation by al-Bashir to “sanction us, come after us”.
Over the past four years, some 200,000 Darfurians have died and more than 2.5 million have been displaced from their homes because of civil strife.
The United States has said the situation there is “genocidal”, attributing most of the blame to the Sudanese government and government-backed militias.
Scenes of the suffering in the region have produced an outpouring of concern and demands for international action to protect the victims and provide relief for them.
Natsios said that in addition to the economic sanctions two Sudanese will be banned from travel to the United States and lose their savings accounts because of their involvement in “atrocious acts”.
Similar sanctions will be imposed against a Darfur rebel leader who, he said, has played an obstructionist role in peace talks.
He added that the sanctions will be imposed unilaterally but that the United States will seek support from others in the international community. “The sanctions will be much more powerful if other nations join us,” he said.
Natsios acknowledged that he was irked by al-Bashir’s negative attitude towards the peacekeeping plan because the Sudanese government itself took part in negotiations last November when the proposal took final shape.
“I told some of them that we were very disappointed in the way they were responding to an agreement that we all reached together,” he said.
The humanitarian situation is so grave that some members of congress, among others, have recommended US military action in Darfur, but that idea appears to have scant support because it would be widely seen by some Islamic countries as another American power grab in another Muslim country.
Darfur has been the scene of repeated civil strife over the years, but nothing on the scale of the past four years. The violence was triggered initially when black tribes rebelled against what they perceived to be neglect by the Khartoum government.
The rebellion was met with fierce resistance by the government and loyal militias, with innocent civilians enduring most of the suffering.