President Bush's decision Tuesday to exert new pressure on Sudan to end the violence in Darfur may have a limited impact because many of...
WASHINGTON — President Bush’s decision Tuesday to exert new pressure on Sudan to end the violence in Darfur may have a limited impact because many of the people and businesses he targeted already are getting around existing sanctions, experts and business officials said.
Bush’s measures exempted some of the largest players in Sudan’s economy, particularly Chinese oil interests and Sudanese firms that supply raw materials important to influential U.S. industries. China buys two-thirds of Sudan’s oil and is the largest foreign investor in the country’s oil industry.
Bush aimed largely at small companies engaged in oil, minerals and agricultural business. Administration officials said putting sanctions on the larger firms would be “extreme” or “militant.”
Nonetheless, administration officials said they hoped the announcement would “send a message” to the Sudanese government.
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Bush and other administration officials frequently have termed the killing in Darfur a “genocide.” China, which has been increasing its oil purchases from Sudan and elsewhere in Africa, has fought tougher measures at the United Nations.
In his announcement, Bush added 31 companies owned or controlled by the Sudanese government to the list of those barred from the U.S. financial system. The step effectively freezes any money they have in U.S. banks and blocks transfers of funds through U.S. institutions.
Bush criticized Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and said the United States would seek to isolate two Sudanese government officials and a rebel leader blamed for their role in the violence. He also asked the State Department to work on a toughened U.N. Security Council resolution intended to put new pressure on Sudan and ban military flights.
“The people of Darfur are crying out for help, and they deserve it,” Bush said.
Darfur, in northwestern Sudan, has been the scene of warfare since 2003, largely between the region’s Arab nomads and villagers who belong to farming tribes. Arab-led militias widely believed to be supported by the Sudanese government have been blamed for instigating much of the fighting, in which at least 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million displaced.
Bush’s announcement follows an effort by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to end the fighting in Darfur.
Lashing out at Bush, Sudan’s ambassador to the U.N., Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem, said the sanctions ignored recent progress. “Sanctions have never solved a problem,” he said.
The Sudanese ambassador added that he knew the three sanctioned men and they had no foreign bank accounts. “I can assure you, all of them have no assets to freeze,” he said. “The sanctions are just a symbolic act.”
The administration’s list of targeted firms is noteworthy for what it left out.
For one, the China National Petroleum, which operates in Sudan, was not included. Likewise, Sudan’s government-dominated Gum Arabic will not be subjected to sanctions. The company is one of the world’s largest exporters of a sticky tree resin used in hundreds of consumer products, including soft drinks and makeup. It was exempted from previous U.S. sanctions after American manufacturers said they needed Gum Arabic to continue making their products.