US increases pressure on Sudan after expulsions

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir will be responsible for ”every single death” caused by the expulsion of 13 foreign aid groups from Sudan, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday.

”This is a horrendous situation that is going to cause untold misery and suffering for the people of Darfur, particularly those in the refugee camps,” Clinton said of Sudan’s decision to expel the aid groups earlier this month.

”The real question is what kind of pressure can be brought to bear on President Bashir and the government in Khartoum to understand that they will be held responsible for every single death that occurs in those camps,” she told reporters.

An administration official said separately that President Barack Obama had chosen retired Air Force General Scott Gration, a close friend who is knowledgeable about African issues, as his special envoy to Sudan. An announcement could be come as soon as Wednesday, the official said.

International experts say at least 200 000 people have been killed in Sudan’s western Darfur region, while al-Bashir’s government says 10 000 have died. The conflict, which has displaced more than 2,7-million people, flared when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government in 2003.

Khartoum ordered out the aid groups this month after the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an arrest warrant against Bashir for atrocities committed in Darfur.

The Sudanese government accused them of helping the court.

Clinton said al-Bashir’s government now had assumed ”an even greater sense of responsibility and infamy in the eyes of the world”. She called on governments supporting him to push for the return of the aid workers, or fill the gaps themselves.

”They must replace with money and personnel those who have been expelled so that innocent lives are not lost and further undermined,” Clinton said.

Pressure on al-Bashir
The United States has made concerted recent efforts to convince the Arab League, the African Union and others such as China with influence over Sudan, to press al-Bashir to reverse course, said State Department spokesperson Robert Wood.

In a meeting last week with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, Obama expressed his ”deep concern” about the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Darfur and asked Beijing to put pressure on Sudan’s government.

Many African and Arab governments say the International Criminal Court’s move was counter-productive and hypocritical in that it failed to tackle alleged war crimes by Israel against Arabs, or by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The United States, while not a member of the court, supported the decision to go after al-Bashir, who was indicted on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity but not for genocide.

Earlier this month, Clinton said the Sudanese leader could ”have his day in court” to prove his innocence. The United States does not support any deferral of the international court’s arrest warrant, Wood said, adding: ”It is a catastrophe that Bashir has made.” – Reuters

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