Bush to Sign Sudan Relief Package

Congress on Tuesday approved $300 million to help victims of violence and support peace talks in the African nation of Sudan (search).

The bill, passed by the Senate in a voice vote, also encourages President Bush to impose sanctions on Sudan's government. The House passed it last month. It now goes to Bush, who is expected to sign the measure.

The United Nations has described violence in Sudan's western Darfur (search) region as the world's worst humanitarian crisis. A U.N. report issued Monday said 2.3 million people in the region need aid.

The violence started in February 2003 when two non-Arab African groups began a rebellion. The government responded by backing Arab militias who have been accused of killing and raping civilians. The United States says the militias have committed genocide.

The bill authorizes $200 million in aid, including money for the deployment of more African peacekeepers in the region. It also would provide another $100 million as an incentive for reaching a final peace agreement in the 21-year war between the Sudanese government and the southern rebel group, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (search). That conflict is separate from the Darfur violence.

The bill's sponsor, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said the Darfur crisis, combined with the civil war, show "the importance of making a long-term investment in Africa's future to break the chains of misrule, corruption, instability, war, poverty and famine and to prevent such crises in the first place."

The bill authorizes the money, but does not actually provide the funds. That money would have to come from a separate spending bill or by shifting of funds from other programs.

It does provide Bush with additional discretion on how previously approved funds related to Sudan are spent, said Andy Fisher, a spokesman for Lugar.