- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 21, 2001

A coalition of more than 100 American religious and civil rights leaders have sent a letter to President Bush, urging him to take a harder stance toward Sudan.
Dated Nov. 19, the letter warned the president that, in his efforts to force alliances with certain countries against terrorists, he would "so compromise basic commitments to religious freedom and human rights that our national credibility and security will be undermined."
The three-page letter is signed by dozens of Protestant and Catholic activists and clergy as well as Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Its distribution was organized by Freedom House, the Center for Religious Freedom and the Institute on Religion and Democracy.
The letter reminded the president that, as recently as May 3, he had said crimes of a "monstrous" sort were being committed in a country that has undergone 30 years of civil war.
Over this time, 2 million people have died, 5 million have been displaced and thousands more are being held as slaves in northern Sudan, the letter said.
In late September, however, Mr. Bush lifted sanctions against Sudan in exchange for that country giving the United States information on fugitive Osama bin Laden, who lived there for several years.
The letter particularly criticized the president for blocking the Sudan Peace Act, which was passed June 13 by the House of Representatives in a 422-2 vote. It barred foreign oil companies doing business in Sudan from selling stock and other securities in the United States. On September 11, a House and Senate conference committee was to be appointed to prepare a version of the act that both houses could agree on and send to the president.
Then the White House prevailed on Congress to leave off its work on the act. With the president's seeming approval of Sudan, "your administration may have inadvertently signaled that the United States will overlook terrorism within Sudan's borders," the statement said, "in exchange for gestures and promises from Khartoum not to export it to our shores."
Since Sept. 12, the Sudanese government has increased bombing its southern half, the letter said, causing widespread deaths of livestock as well as people. On Oct. 9, the regime bombed the United Nations' World Food Program, forcing it to evacuate its quarters in northern Bahr al Ghazal. On Oct. 4, the letter said, Sudan's first vice president declared his troops were in "jihad" against its opponents in the south.
"By rewarding and praising Khartoum at the very moment it is stepping up its bombing, starvation and literal enslavement of religious minorities," the letter said, "the U.S. appears to be willing to tolerate religiously based internal terrorism."
Some have argued, the letter concluded, that the United States has no more time for human rights.
"We are confident," it said, "that you do not share this view."


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