Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bush Isolated on Sudan Sanctions

Today (May 29), President George Bush announced sanctions against over 30 Sudanese corporations and three individuals. The announcement came after Sudan's President Bashir over the weekend expressed reservations about a hybrid UN peace-keeping mission approved by the Security Council on Friday. Sudan has insisted on a force comprised only of troops from the African continent. News reports indicate that the US is working along with arch ally Great Britain in drafting sanction language. Forbes reports that the European Union is "open" to sanctions. However, according to Reuters, Russia and South Africa and other Security Council members have strong reservations. A Novosti news headline in an otherwise neutral article emphasized the unilateral character of the Bush move. According to Reuters, South Africa's UN representative

"… urged patience and asked what the strategy would be if sanctions were applied. 'Right now the surprising thing was that we were thinking the government of Sudan was now beginning to take the right actions and agree to what we were going to do,' he said. 'It's not clear which way we are going'."

Regional powers in the Middle East today also expressed differences with sanctions with the Arab League and Egypt indicating opposition. A story in news.com.au a leader of the Arab League warned.

"Sanctions will only serve to increase tensions and will not lead to any solution for the complicated problems of Darfur," Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa said.

Bush's announcement came after a month-long postponement of actions at the request of the UN secretary-general Ki-moon to step up diplomatic and political initiatives, initiatives that seemed to have been working. Apparently the critical question now is the composition of the new "heavy" peace-keeping mission. Sudanese opposition to non-African forces joining the mission seems widely understood on the continent because of fears of opening the door to Western military intervention.

China remains strongly opposed to the sanctions. Its newly appointed representative for Darfur, just returned from the region argued against sanctions arguing that investment was key to solving the country's wars and others problems. The ambassador said he saw no hunger in Darfur and went on to say he was "thanked" by people of Darfur for its economic projects in the Sudan. Sudanese critics on the other hand counter that only people benefiting from such investment are Bashir's ruling clique and their bank accounts.

This opinion is held by Communists and others on the left in the Sudan who argue that Beijing only uses its own labor at its Sudanese projects. Sudanese unemployed are left out, they argue. Sudan has unemployment rate of 27 percent. In general the Communist Party of Sudan and others on the left favor divestment and other economic pressure against the Bashir regime.

--joe sims

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