WASHINGTON – Marking an annual remembrance of the Holocaust, President Bush on Wednesday threatened sanctions against Sudan if it does not fulfill several requirements to stop the ongoing bloodshed in Darfur.
Bush said Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir must: Allow the deployment of a full U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force; reach out to rebel leaders; end support for the violent Janjaweed militia; and permit humanitarian aid to pass to the region.
"President Bashir's record has been to promise cooperation while finding new ways to subvert and obstruct the U.N.'s efforts to bring peace to his country. The time for promises is over. President Bashir must act," Bush said from the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Bush warned of a series of steps that will be taken if the Sudanese president does not meet his obligations, including the tightening of economic sanctions on Sudan, barring certain companies from taking part in the U.S. financial system, targeting sanctions on individuals responsible for violence, and applying new sanctions against the government of Sudan.
More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million have been displaced to refugee camps during the four-year conflict in Darfur, which began when rebels from ethnic African tribes rose up against the central government. The government is accused of responding by unleashing the Janjaweed militias of Arab nomads — blamed for indiscriminate killing. The government denies the charges.
"No one who sees these pictures can doubt that 'genocide' is the only word for what is happening in Darfur, and that we have a moral obligation to stop it," Bush said.
The president noted that many steps have been taken, including the deployment of a 7,000-strong African Union force aimed at quelling the violence.
"They've served courageously," Bush said. "The problem is the area they patrol is the size of Texas. Seven thousand people is not enough to provide the security the people of Darfur need."
In November, several international groups and the government of Sudan agreed to add more soldiers to triple the size of the African Union. That did not come to pass, though Bashir has agreed recently to accept 3,000 U.N. troops.
David C. Rubenstein, director of the Save Darfur Coalition, is skeptical.
"His regime makes promises, signs agreements and makes pledges — only to hedge, qualify and renege on their commitments," Rubenstein said. "President Bashir has been one broken promise after another, and we fear this concession may be an extension of that trend."
Bush added that throughout every effort, the people on the ground have resisted assistance.
"Sudan's government has moved arms to Darfur, conducted bombing raids on villages. They've used military vehicles and aircraft that are painted white, which makes them look like those deployed by humanitarian agencies and peacekeeping forces," he said.
"Many rebel groups have also pursued violence instead of peace. The groups who've not signed on to last May's peace accord have splintered, and they're roaming the Darfur's countryside, pillaging and stealing at will. They've killed civilians. They've plundered vehicles and plundered supplies from international aid workers. They've added to the lawlessness," Bush added.
Bush said he wants to give U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon more time to pursue diplomacy, but if not, the Treasury Department would tighten U.S. economic sanctions on Sudan by blocking any of that government's dollar transactions within the U.S. system, and adding 29 companies owned or controlled by the Sudanese government to a list of groups banned from doing business with American companies and individuals.
Bush said the United States would target sanctions on individual people responsible for violence, effectively cutting them off from the U.S. financial system, preventing them from doing business and "calling the world's attention to their crimes."
Bush said he will direct the secretary of state to prepare a U.N. Security Council resolution to apply new sanctions against the government of Sudan and people found to be violating human rights or obstructing peace.
Bush spoke at the U.S. Holocaust Museum to a crowd that included Holocaust survivors. He honored Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor who died trying to keep a gunman from shooting his students in Monday's killing spree at Virginia Tech. Librescu, an aeronautics engineer and teacher at the school for 20 years, saved the lives of several students by using his body to barricade a classroom door before he was gunned down in Monday's massacre.
"We take strength from his example," Bush said.
This week marks the National Days of Remembrance of the Holocaust. At least 6 million Jews and millions of Poles, Gypsies and others died at the hands of the Nazis.
Before Bush spoke, he viewed an exhibit on anti-Semitism and one titled "Genocide Emergency Darfur: Who will survive today?" He looked at photographs of refugees and victims from the region and saw satellite imagery of the region on a computer.
When the president arrived at the museum, several dozen demonstrators were outside pleading for more urgent action to resolve the crisis in Darfur, where thousands of people are dying each month from a lack of food, water, health care and shelter in the desert.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.