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Better Sudan sanctions needed, Land says

WASHINGTON (BP)–Southern Baptist public policy specialist Richard Land applauded President Bush’s announcement of increased sanctions against the militant Islamic regime of Sudan but wished the penalties had been even tougher.

Bush implemented the new economic sanctions six weeks after he had threatened to take such action unless Khartoum followed through on its commitments regarding the slaughter and starvation of Sudanese people in the western region of Darfur. The Sudanese regime maintained its pattern of obstruction, however, including its prevention of the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping force in Darfur.

The new sanctions include the barring from the U.S. financial system of 30 companies owned or controlled by Sudan’s government, as well as another firm that has been providing weapons to Sudanese and militia forces in Darfur. Three individuals also are excluded from the American system. In addition, U.S. companies and individuals are prohibited from doing business with the newly sanctioned parties.

In his White House announcement, Bush also called for a new U.N. resolution enacting sanctions against Sudan, as well as an expanded blockade on arms sales to Khartoum and a no-fly zone for the Sudanese military over Darfur.

Land told Baptist Press he was encouraged the president and the U.S. government “have taken the next step of issuing sanctions against particular members of the gangster regime in Khartoum that is perpetrating genocide against its own citizens in Darfur.”

“The good news is that the step to sanctions has been taken,” said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “The bad news is that the sanctions were not more severe and more wide-ranging. The worst news is that our nation seems to be virtually alone in the international community in being willing to issue sanctions against the perpetrators of genocide.”

The response of major international players appeared to confirm Land’s assessment. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon requested patience while he seeks to convince Khartoum to agree to the addition of 15,000 peacekeeping troops to the 7,000 in Darfur, according to The Washington Post. Russia was cool to Bush’s approach, The Post reported.

Liu Guijin, China’s new special envoy to Africa, said, according to China Daily, “Imposing new sanctions only makes the problem more difficult to resolve.”

The Washington-based Save Darfur Coalition, meanwhile, welcomed the new U.S. sanctions but said they “are too late and too little. However, because the international community and the Bush administration have been barking at the Sudanese regime for so long, it is reassuring to see that at least the U.S. has finally started to bite.”

Darfur has been the scene of a grave humanitarian crisis since 2003, when Khartoum-supported militias, known as Janjaweed, began what Bush has described as “genocide” in response to rebel attacks on government bases. It has been estimated that at least 400,000 people have died and more than 2 million have been left homeless in the region.

The conflict has differed from the one largely between the north and south that stretched over two decades in Sudan before it ended in 2005. That strife was based on religious differences, with the militant Islamic forces backed by Khartoum pillaging Christian, animist and moderate Muslim villages in the central and southern parts of the country.

The crisis in Darfur is based on ethnic differences, with the Arab Muslim militias raping, kidnapping, bombing and murdering African Muslims.

Bush had unveiled the new sanctions in an April speech but said he would refrain from implementing them at the request of the U.N., which expressed the belief Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir would fulfill his commitments.

“Unfortunately, [al-Bashir] hasn’t met those obligations,” Bush said in announcing May 29 he was issuing the sanctions. “President Bashir’s actions over the past few weeks follow a long pattern of promising cooperation while finding new methods for obstruction.

“The people of Darfur are crying out for help, and they deserve it,” he said, adding a promise to the people of Darfur. “The United States will not avert our eyes from a crisis that challenges the conscience of the world.”

The United States has contributed more than $1.7 billion in humanitarian and other aid to Darfur, making it the largest donor to the people of that region, Bush said.

Among the companies included in the new sanctions disclosed by the president are five “petrochemical” firms and Sudan’s national telecommunications corporation, according to the Treasury Department. The U.S. also will increase its enforcement of all Sudan-related sanctions, the department said. Sanctions already existed against 130 companies connected with Sudan, The Post reported.

Khartoum and Darfur’s largest rebel group signed a peace plan in May 2006, but the government-basked militias have not been disarmed, which was part of the agreement, and the carnage has continued.

Messengers to the 2006 Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution urging the disbanding of the Khartoum-supported militias in Darfur, international trials for “perpetrators of the atrocities” in the region and multi-national aid to the area.