- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 9, 2004

The Bush administration, under heavy pressure from human rights groups and Christian conservatives, yesterday accused Sudan’s Arab-led government of “genocide” against the black African population of the country’s Darfur region.

The charge, made at a Senate hearing by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, came as the United States lobbied for a U.N. Security Council resolution threatening new sanctions against Khartoum if it failed to end a crisis that has killed tens of thousands and created more than 1.2 million refugees.

Mr. Powell said State Department officials had interviewed more than 1,100 refugees at camps in Sudan and neighboring Chad and had detailed a coordinated campaign of rape, pillage and murder by Sudanese troops and pro-government Arab militias, known as the Janjaweed, against Darfur’s black African population.

“We concluded that genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility,” Mr. Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“And genocide may still be occurring,” he said.

Mr. Powell cautioned that the genocide designation did not dictate any new direct U.S. action against Khartoum. The administration already has imposed numerous sanctions, and there is no prospect of U.S. troops deploying to Darfur.

“There isn’t much more we could do in the way of sanctions unilaterally that would affect the Sudanese very much. There’s not much left in that closet,” he told the Senate panel.

But U.S. officials say they hope that the genocide decision will put fresh pressure on other Security Council members to take action, including an expansion of an African Union force monitoring the situation inside Darfur and restrictions on Sudan’s vital oil revenue.

The government of Sudan, which has been battling Darfur-based rebel groups since early 2003, rejected the charge and said such accusations would only exacerbate tensions in the region.

“We don’t think this kind of attitude can help the situation in Darfur,” Sudanese Deputy Foreign Minister Najeeb al-Khair Abdel-Wahab told the Associated Press in Abuja, Nigeria, where peace talks between the government and Darfur rebel groups have been dragging.

But Adbelhafiz Mustafa Musa, a spokesman for the Sudan Liberation Movement, one of the two main Darfur rebel groups, praised the U.S. action, saying he hoped that it would lead to “decisive” international action against Khartoum.

“The verdict has debunked the lies, the insincerity of the Sudanese government to the peace process,” he told reporters in Abuja.

U.S. lawmakers from both parties also hailed the genocide designation, saying they hoped that it would place pressure on reluctant Security Council members such as China and Pakistan to back tougher measures concerning Darfur.

Sudan also has become a favored cause among American Christian conservatives as the Arab Muslim-dominated government in Khartoum has fought a separate, long-running civil war with Christian and animist groups in the country’s south.

The new draft U.N. resolution yesterday sets a 30-day period for Khartoum to crack down on the Janjaweed and supports an expansion of the size and the mandate of the African Union force monitoring the situation inside Darfur.

John Prendergast, a Sudan expert at the International Crisis Group, said the genocide designation only underscored “the gap between rhetoric and reality swirling around Washington on this issue.”

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