WASHINGTON – The White House on Monday unveiled a new Sudan policy that seeks a middle ground between punishing the country’s defiant regime and appeasing it, a step away from the get-tough policy advocated by President Barack Obama during his election campaign.
The new policy came after seven months of debate within the administration and was cautiously welcomed by international advocates of stringent measures to end violence in the Darfur region.
The administration wants Khartoum to end the fighting between Darfur rebels and government-backed militias that has led to at least 300,000 deaths. It also is trying to persuade the regime to cooperate in fighting terrorism and in carrying out the provisional 2005 peace agreement designed to end a civil war between the country’s northern and southern regions.
Under the new policy, administration officials will renew sanctions on Sudan for its actions in the strife-torn Darfur region. But they also will offer incentives for cooperation on key issues.
Retired Air Force Gen. Scott Gration, the administration’s special envoy to Sudan, has argued that the administration should halt sanctions in hopes of winning broader cooperation.
His proposal was resisted by Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who has long pushed for strong action against the Sudanese government for policies in Darfur that have been designated as genocide. Gration’s plan brought an outcry from Darfur advocacy groups and some members of Congress.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, announcing the new policy at the State Department, said the administration would use a “menu of incentives and disincentives” to achieve its goals. Clinton declined to spell out specific punishments and rewards, saying they were part of a classified document.
The Sudanese government, headed by President Omar al-Bashir, has strong Chinese economic support and has proved resistant to U.S. pressure.
Obama, in a statement, said the United States and foreign allies must act “with a sense of urgency and purpose” to seek an end to the violence and human-rights abuses in Darfur.