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President Bush Levies New Sanctions Against Sudan

May 29, 2007 at 6:05 PM EST
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RAY SUAREZ: The president followed through today on a threat he made six weeks ago: to stiffen economic sanctions against Sudan.

GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: For too long, the people of Darfur have suffered at the hands of a government that is complicit in the bombing, murder and rape of innocent civilians. My administration has called these actions by their rightful name: genocide. The world has a responsibility to help put an end to it.

RAY SUAREZ: The four-year conflict has centered on Sudan’s western region, Darfur, where the U.N. estimates at least 200,000 people have been killed. More than 2.5 million people have been displaced, but the U.N. has stopped short of labeling the killing “genocide.”

The fight pits ethnic African rebels against the Arab-dominated government. Government-backed militias, called the Janjaweed, have been accused of waging a campaign of rape, murder and extermination against the people of Darfur, a charge they deny.

The Sudanese government, led by President Omar al-Bashir, has repeatedly stalled on an agreement reached last year for a U.N. force to bolster the 7,000 African Union troops already in the country.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Last month, I announced that the United States was prepared to take new steps if the government of Sudan did not allow the full deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force, if the government did not begin living up to its many commitments that the United States would act.

RAY SUAREZ: The latest sanctions zero in on 31 companies owned or controlled by the Sudanese government. The firms will be barred from dealings with U.S. banks and companies. Many of the Sudanese companies are involved in the country’s oil industry.

A handful of Sudanese individuals are also targeted, including two high-level government officials accused of fueling the violence in Darfur. The president has also stepped up pressure on the United Nations, demanding stronger sanctions and expanding an arms embargo.

Reaction to Mr. Bush’s announcement was swift. In Khartoum, Sudan’s government angrily dismissed the sanctions and urged other nations to ignore them.

The Save Darfur Coalition, a U.S. group, said it may be too late. Director David Rubenstein added, “The Darfuri people don’t have that much time. The president must set a short and firm deadline for fundamental changes in Sudanese behavior.”

China, the largest consumer of Sudanese oil, said the sanctions are counterproductive.

LIU GIUJIN, Chinese Envoy to Darfur (through translator): Persistent pressure and sanctions will not resolve these issues. They can only make the problems more complicated.

RAY SUAREZ: China is also one of the five permanent Security Council members. It has blocked efforts to send U.N. peacekeepers to Darfur without the Sudanese government’s consent. At the U.N. today, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said he wanted more time for a diplomatic solution.

Europeans also pushed forward with a plan to end the violence in Darfur. The new French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, today proposed opening a corridor through Chad to bring humanitarian relief to hundreds of thousands of Darfurians stranded in refugee camps in Darfur and Chad.

Increasing the pressure on Sudan

John Negroponte
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
I think what basically it does is it increases the pressure on the government of Sudan to live up to its obligations, which it has not done so far.

RAY SUAREZ: For more on President Bush's announcement, we're joined by Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte.

And, Mr. Secretary, this administration has been calling for change in Sudan for years now, demanding that the Bashir government change its treatment of the country's Western provinces and the people who live there. What's different about what was announced today?

JOHN NEGROPONTE, Deputy Secretary of State: Well, I think what basically it does is it increases the pressure on the government of Sudan to live up to its obligations, which it has not done so far, and it does it in the context of also submitting soon a draft Security Council resolution to the Security Council to multilateralize these sanctions, as well.

So I would say it's part of a process that was begun a number of months ago to strengthen the isolation of Sudan and convey the message to it, as Ambassador Natsios was saying earlier in the program, that it must modify, must change its behavior with respect to its own people in Darfur, stop the bombing, stop supporting the Arab militias who are wantonly killing their Sudanese compatriots, cooperate with the dispatch of additional peacekeepers to the area so that they can help stabilize the situation, and facilitate the work of the international and domestic NGO communities to administer assistance to the people of Darfur.

Effectiveness of sanctions

John Negroponte
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
What we're saying now is, to President Bashir, you must accept this hybrid African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force, this bolstered force, as soon as possible or face the prospect of increased international isolation and increased sanctions.

RAY SUAREZ: But hasn't Mr. Natsios, hasn't President Bush himself been calling for just those things for years, stop the targeting of civilians, stop using the assets of the air force to bomb villages and destroy villages? And the Bashir government, including calling for more African peacekeepers to be allowed into the country, and the Bashir government just ignores it and goes on its way, doesn't it?

JOHN NEGROPONTE: Well, but take, for example, the question of security. I was in the region a little bit more than a month ago. And almost everybody universally said there is insufficient security in the region.

I spoke to the commander of the African union forces there, and he said to me, "Look, we've got to get more help from the international community." There is a plan now, a plan to augment the forces that were somewhere around 5,100 actual combat forces of the African Union to somewhere between 17,000 and 22,000.

This is a very concrete and specific plan. Secretary Ban Ki-Moon has worked with the head of the African Union now to flesh that out so that that force can be increased. And what we're saying now is, to President Bashir, you must accept this hybrid African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force, this bolstered force, as soon as possible or face the prospect of increased international isolation and increased sanctions.

RAY SUAREZ: Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was hoping, and said so publicly, that you would hold off. He needed more time. Why didn't you give it to him?

JOHN NEGROPONTE: Well, we held off. Prior to President Bush's speech about a month ago, the president had intended to announce these increased sanctions then. In response to a direct appeal from the secretary general, we postponed them for a month or so, but it was felt that, in light of the fact that there had really been no change in the situation on the ground or in terms of the government of Sudan's behavior.

Indeed, there had been a deterioration in some respects, for example, intensified bombing of some of the groups, including even a bombing of the gathering of the different rebel groups who were trying to organize a negotiating position for the peace process.

So, in light of all these different activities, the president felt that we must implement these additional unilateral sanctions now, but we don't think this is in any way mutually exclusive, with the continued efforts by the secretary general to find some kind of a satisfactory outcome in the Sudan. And I want to stress that we are completely supportive of his efforts.

China's role in Sudan

John Negroponte
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
We know from our dialogue with the Chinese that they have conveyed the message to Sudan that it must come to an accommodation with the international community and carry out its international obligations.

RAY SUAREZ: China, in addition to being a permanent member of the Security Council, is also a major buyer of Sudanese oil and a supporter in the debates over how to proceed in the U.N. Are you going to get cooperation from China this time in putting tougher sanctions on Sudan?

JOHN NEGROPONTE: Well, certainly the question of Sudan is one that we have put on our agenda with China. It's part of our bilateral dialogue. President Bush has spoken to President Hu Jintao about Sudan. Secretary Rice has also had conversations with her counterpart, and I have had meetings with mine. So I think we can very definitely say that the issue of Sudan is on the United States-China bilateral agenda.

The second point I would make is, if you look back as far as last August, when a Chapter 7 resolution was passed through the Security Council with respect to Sudan, China allowed that to go through. That resolution was passed. And we know from our dialogue with the Chinese that they have conveyed the message to Sudan that it must come to an accommodation with the international community and carry out its international obligations.

RAY SUAREZ: But, excuse me, at the same time hasn't China also given the Khartoum government cover by insisting in international meetings that, until the Bashir government green-lights, for instance, added peacekeepers, more security in Darfur, they would not support those extra troops going in?

JOHN NEGROPONTE: Well, it is true that the Chinese do not have the absolutely identical position to ours. But I would say, on balance, they have played a role in conveying the message to the government of Sudan that it is digging itself a deeper and deeper hole with the international community.

Another point I'd like to add is that the Chinese are willing themselves, and they've announced their willingness, to contribute some peacekeeping forces themselves to engage in the construction of camps for the peacekeeping forces in Darfur. So they're willing to put up some of their own forces to contribute to this situation.

Detailing the sanctions

John Negroponte
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
By saying that we're going to engage with Security Council members about international sanctions in the Security Council at this very moment, I think we're indicating that we're going to move about this question with a considerable degree of urgency.

RAY SUAREZ: Let's talk a little bit more about the economic sanctions. By walling off U.S. banks from doing business with Sudan, do you really cramp their ability to do business on the world market?

JOHN NEGROPONTE: Well, to use the phrase "cramp," I think it does cramp their style. There's no question about it. Being able to carry out business in United States dollars is a very, very important thing to most countries and companies. So that would be my first point.

The second is, we do have indications that a number of these Sudanese companies that have been placed under sanctions have tried to find ways to work around sanctions, to engage in dollar transactions in spite of those sanctions. And we intend, in the wake of this announcement by President Bush, in intensify our enforcement efforts, to go after those who are helping the government of Sudan get around these kinds of sanctions.

And, lastly, as the president announced today, we've increased the number of companies by some 30 that will be under sanction, and these are very, very important Sudanese government-controlled corporations.

RAY SUAREZ: Two Sudanese officials, who are considered partially responsible for what's going on in Darfur, were targeted. Why not President Bashir himself? And quickly, please.

JOHN NEGROPONTE: Well, I think that this is an important starting point. The president has said that we would submit multilateral sanctions to the Security Council, and he has indicated, also, we don't rule out future, intensified pressures of various kinds.

RAY SUAREZ: And is there some sort of clock that you're working on, some time by which you'll have to see response from the Sudanese government, to know whether this is worth doing, whether this is working?

JOHN NEGROPONTE: Well, first of all, certainly, the time for Sudan -- and let's be clear about this -- for Sudan to act is now. And, clearly, there's a great deal of impatience about this. And as you, yourself, in your questioning have suggested, we've been waiting an awfully long time.

But by saying that we're going to engage with Security Council members about international sanctions in the Security Council at this very moment, I think we're indicating that we're going to move about this question with a considerable degree of urgency.

RAY SUAREZ: Secretary Negroponte, thanks for joining us.

JOHN NEGROPONTE: Thank you.