- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2006

NEW YORK — In announcing a special envoy to Sudan yesterday President Bush finds himself in the forefront of the international community in trying to end violence in that nation’s Darfur region, even as political supporters and opponents at home prod him to go further.

The president told the U.N. General Assembly that he has named former USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios to be his envoy, with a mandate to try to end violence that has claimed more than 200,000 lives and displaced more than 2 million people since 2003.

“You have suffered unspeakable violence, and my nation has called these atrocities what they are — genocide,” Mr. Bush said, addressing the people of Darfur. “If the Sudanese government does not approve this peacekeeping force quickly, the United Nations must act. Your lives and the credibility of the United Nations is at stake.”

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has refused to implement U.N. Security Council Resolution 1706 that called for sending 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers to replace a 7,000-member African Union force.

Meanwhile, few leaders have followed Mr. Bush’s lead in calling the violence genocide. China, which has significant economic interests in Sudan, abstained from voting on the U.N. resolution, along with Russia and Qatar.

The gap between Mr. Bush’s position and other leaders was underscored when, just minutes after Mr. Bush’s address, French President Jacques Chirac spoke to the United Nations and called Sudan’s situation a “humanitarian catastrophe,” but not a genocide. Still, Bush administration officials said Mr. Chirac told Mr. Bush in a private meeting yesterday that he will make a formal appeal to Mr. al-Bashir to accept a U.N. force.

“Bush passionately wants the killing fields to end and for this humanitarian crisis to be eliminated,” said Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican. “Again, among world leaders, he has been a leader.”

Mr. Smith, chairman of a House subcommittee on human rights, will hold a hearing today looking at what role Mr. Natsios will play. He said ending the violence in Sudan fits Mr. Bush’s freedom agenda to counter the spread of radical Islam, because Sudan once was home to Osama bin Laden, recent violence in Sudan’s south was over attempts to impose Shariah, or Islamic law, and the killings in Darfur are “largely a situation of jihad.”

Democrats were also quick with praise, though House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said that “a U.S. special envoy is long past due.”

“But it is not too late,” she added, calling for more diplomacy and “the active engagement of the international community, especially the Chinese government.”

The office of the special envoy was established by law earlier this year in a spending bill amendment sponsored by Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, and Sen. Mike DeWine, Ohio Republican.

Yesterday, Mr. Biden said that if Sudan’s government won’t accept an international peacekeeping force and a no-fly zone, “we should impose both.”

“President Bush has rightly called what is happening in Darfur, genocide. It is past time that the world took action accordingly,” he said.

Mr. Natsios returns to government only eight months after stepping down as director of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to teach at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

He headed USAID for nearly five years and had held other senior positions there in the administration of Mr. Bush’s father. For about a year before rejoining the agency in 2001, he was the chief executive officer of Boston’s Big Dig highway project. He also served as Massachusetts’ secretary for administration and finance.

• Nicholas Kralev, reporting from Washington, contributed to this article.

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