- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 1, 2008

CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) — President Bush signed legislation yesterday to allow states and local governments to cut investment ties with Sudan because of the violence in Darfur.

The bill permits state, county and municipal officials to adopt measures to divest their government investments from companies involved in the four sectors that provide vital revenue for Sudan”s government — oil, power production, mining and military equipment.

“I share the deep concern of the Congress over the continued violence in Darfur perpetrated by the government of Sudan and rebel groups,” Mr. Bush said.

The Bush administration had raised objections to letting state and local governments adopt divestment policies that delve into foreign policy, a traditional federal role. The president noted those concerns again yesterday. Nevertheless, he agreed to sign the bill, which was approved with strong support in Congress.

Mr. Bush said the bill “risks being interpreted as insulating from federal oversight state and local divestment actions that could interfere with implementation of national foreign policy.”

He emphasized that the Constitution gives the federal government the authority to handle foreign relations and that the “executive branch shall construe and enforce this legislation in a manner that does not conflict with that authority.”

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions driven from their homes in four years of violence in the Darfur region since black African rebels took up arms against militias supported by the Arab-dominated central government.

Mr. Bush signed the bill at his ranch in central Texas, where he was capping a few days of quiet time before returning to the White House on New Year’s Day.

Also yesterday, Mr. Bush signed a bill that allows for public access to government actions under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the first such makeover to the law in a decade. He signed the bill without comment.

The legislation creates a system for the press and public to track the status of their FOIA requests. It establishes a hot-line service for all federal agencies to deal with problems and an ombudsman to provide an alternative to litigation in disclosure disputes.

The law also restores a presumption of a standard that orders government agencies to release information on request unless there is a finding that disclosure could do harm. Agencies would be required to meet a 20-day deadline for responding to FOIA requests. Nonproprietary information held by government contractors also would be subject to the law.

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