WASHINGTON—Republicans and Democrats in Congress are looking for a new path to end the killings, rapes and plunder in Darfur, and it seems to lead through Beijing.
The world has long pleaded with Sudan to stop arming the militias that are devastating Darfur and to allow a full U.N.-supported peacekeeping contingent into the region. China has argued against isolating Sudan and sending peacekeepers against Sudan's will. New resolutions in Congress call on China to change course and help push to end the genocide.
China has clout with Sudan because it buys two-thirds of Sudan's oil. Moreover, China is particularly sensitive to pressure now because it wants nothing to mar its prestige as host of the Olympics next year in Beijing.
The resolutions, scheduled to be introduced in the House of Representatives and Senate on Wednesday, said nothing about a boycott of the Olympics, but pointedly suggested that genocide is incompatible with the peaceful spirit of the Games.
"We want to see the Olympics take place, and we want to see the genocide end, so we hope China will see this as an opportunity to help us end this carnage that's taking place in Darfur," said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., co-sponsor of the House resolution.
Lee, who has visited the region three times, describes it as "enormous carnage."
Attacks against civilians in Darfur have sent tens of thousands of refugees into crowded camps. The Sudanese government, the janjaweed militias that the government backs and rebel groups have killed more than 200,000 people since 2003 and forced more than 2 million from their homes, according to the United Nations. Some estimates run as high as 450,000 deaths.
The resolutions, sponsored by Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Lee, as well as Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan., call on the Chinese government to urge Sudanese President Omar al Bashir to disarm the militias in Darfur and accept a 20,300-man U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force. They also urge China to help bring the government and rebel groups to negotiations.
"Instead of condemning the atrocities committed by the Khartoum government, China has chosen to strengthen its military and economic ties with Sudan. Innocent lives hang in the balance, and it is crucial that China leverage the full weight of its relationship with Sudan to end the suffering in Darfur," Brownback said.
China has rejected arguments that Sudan should be isolated. It also has blocked U.N. efforts to send a peacekeeping force to Darfur without Sudan's consent. But recently Chinese officials have promised to help bring peace to Darfur.
Earlier this month, 108 House members signed a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao urging him to push for an end to the Darfur crisis. Written by Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the letter criticized China for giving Sudan an interest-free loan, canceling Sudanese debt and reportedly selling arms that are being used against civilians.
Lantos and Lee also have sponsored a bill that would require the Securities and Exchange Commission to identify companies that do business in Sudan and prohibit those companies from receiving U.S. government contracts.
Their bill signals that "we no longer will tolerate profit-making from genocide," Lantos said in a statement Wednesday applauding Fidelity Investments' decision this week to sell 91 percent of its stake in PetroChina, whose parent, state-run China National Petroleum Corp., does business in Sudan.
President Bush, in a speech at the Holocaust Museum on April 18, gave Bashir "a short period of time" to allow the full peacekeeping force into Darfur to seek an agreement with rebel leaders. He also called for Sudan to end its support of the militias, use of military aircraft to attack civilians and obstruction of aid.
Bush said that if Sudan refused to comply, he'd order tighter U.S. economic sanctions and seek multinational sanctions. President Clinton prohibited trade with and investment in Sudan in 1997 by executive order. The Bush administration has given more than $2 billion in humanitarian aid since 2005 to Sudanese victims of the Darfur conflict.
(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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McClatchy Newspapers 2007