- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Obama administration on Monday accused the government of Sudan of committing war crimes in Darfur, and it threatened to tighten sanctions if benchmarks for human rights and peace-building were not forthcoming.

The threat of sanctions also came with potential benefits for Sudan. The White House is attempting to engage with a strategy to end a civil war in Darfur and prevent the renewal of a second civil war between Khartoum and the non-Muslim South.

President Obama outlined broad goals of his administration’s outreach to Sudan in an announcement Monday:

• To end the atrocities committed by Sudanese soldiers and government-sponsored militias in Darfur, a region in the western part of the African nation.

• Timely implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) to either unite North and South Sudan into a peaceful country or make progress toward two separate and viable states.

• Prevent Sudan from providing a safe haven for terrorists.

“Achieving [these goals] requires the commitment of the United States, as well as the active participation of international partners,” the president said in a statement.

He said the United States and its allies could tighten sanctions unless Khartoum failed to show progress.

“Sudan is now poised to fall further into chaos if swift action is not taken,” Mr. Obama said.

The United Nations estimates that up to 300,000 civilians have been killed in the Darfur conflict, which began with a 2003 rebel uprising in the region. Millions of people have been forced into squalid camps to escape retaliation from Sudan’s government and government-backed militias.

The new U.S. strategy continues to accuse Sudan of “genocide” in Darfur.

Ghazi Salaheedin, an adviser to Sudanese President Omar Bashir called the genocide accusations unfortunate. Sudan puts the civilian death toll at 10,000.

But Mr. Salaheedin characterized Mr. Obama’s overall effort in upbeat terms.

“Compared to previous policies, there are positive points. We don’t see the extreme ideas and suggestions, which we used to see in the past,” Mr. Salaheedin told reporters in Khartoum, according to Agence France-Presse.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would not provide details of the penalties and incentives contained in the package, saying the details were part of a strategy document that was classified.

The new program replaces the previous U.S. strategy, characterized by Mrs. Clinton on Monday as “reactive rather than proactive” and “narrowly focused on emerging crises.”

The policy took seven months to draft. It was widely viewed as a compromise between Mr. Obama’s envoy, Scott Gration, who favored a more conciliatory approach, and other officials who took a more hard-line view.

“This finds the right balance for peace, protection and accountability, finds the right balance for peace,” said John Prendergast, co-chairman of the Enough Project, which has been active on Darfur issues.

Options available to the United States include easing existing sanctions, including travel restrictions on some Sudanese officials, and taking Sudan off the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism

Apart from the Darfur conflict, the United States is attempting to reinforce a 2005 peace deal that ended a separate conflict between the Muslim North and the South, where Christian and traditional African religions are prevalent.

Sudan, a one-time base for Osama bin Laden, has quietly cooperated with U.S. intelligence officials since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

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