WASHINGTON—President Bush warned Sudan's president on Wednesday that he has one "last chance" to end the violence in Darfur before the United States imposes strict economic sanctions and considers "even sterner" options against his country.
Bush's warning, delivered in a speech at Washington's Holocaust Museum, came amid mixed signals from Sudan. Even as President Omar Hassan al Bashir's government announced that it will allow a large United Nations force to supplement African Union peacekeepers in Darfur, Bush charged that it was simultaneously sneaking military arms and other equipment into the region in military aircraft painted to look like U.N. or African Union planes.
Bush didn't set a deadline but said he's deferring to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's diplomatic efforts to press Bashir to keep his commitments.
"President Bashir should take the last chance by responding to the secretary-general's efforts and to meet the just demands of the international community," Bush said.
As many as 450,000 people have died from violence, malnutrition and disease, and some 2.5 million people have been left homeless and living in camps, according to humanitarian aid groups. The civil conflict expanded in 2003 when Darfur's African tribal villagers armed themselves against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum in a fight for greater political rights.
Bush has called the atrocities in Darfur genocide, but Washington and other world capitals have been unable to come up with a solution to the conflict and suffering.
Bush said Wednesday that Bashir must allow the deployment of the international peacekeepers and U.N. support forces, end support for janjaweed militias, reach out to rebel leaders and allow humanitarian aid to flow into Darfur.
He said that if Bashir fails to comply "in a short period of time," the U.S. Treasury would tighten U.S. economic sanctions by blocking Sudan's dollar transactions within the U.S. financial system.
The Treasury Department also would ban 29 companies owned or controlled by Sudan's government from the U.S. financial system and would make it a crime for American companies to do business with them.
The administration also would implement sanctions against individuals whom it considers responsible for the violence by prohibiting them from doing business with any U.S. citizen or corporation.
In addition, the White House would seek a new U.N. Security Council resolution that would add sanctions, broaden an arms embargo and prohibit Sudan's government from conducting military offensive flights over Darfur.
"If Sudan's obstruction continues despite these measures, we will also consider other options," Bush said. "And if we do not begin to see signs of good faith and commitments, we will hear calls for even sterner measures."
Bush would use authority from two Darfur-related presidential Executive Orders—one signed by him last year and another by former President Clinton in 1997—to carry out the sanctions he outlined.
Bush's 2006 order imposed sanctions against those alleged to be responsible for the genocide. Clinton's order imposed sanctions on Sudan for alleged sponsorship of terrorism and human rights abuses.
Bush's frustration with Bashir was clear Wednesday. The White House thought it had reached a major breakthrough last May when the U.S. brokered a peace accord between Sudan's government—which supports the janjaweed—and the rebels. But the agreement has failed to take hold.
"President Bashir's record has been to promise cooperation while finding ways to subvert and obstruct the U.N.'s efforts to bring peace to his country," Bush said. "The time for promises is over—President Bashir must act."
Many Darfur interest groups expressed disappointment in Bush's proposal, saying it didn't go far enough.
David C. Rubenstein, executive director of the Save Darfur Coalition, a group of 170 faith-based and humanitarian organizations, blasted Bush for not giving Bashir a firm deadline to act, for not implementing a no-fly zone to prevent civilian bombings and for failing to ban Sudanese ships that carry oil from entering into U.S. ports.
"Any further delay in the imposition of tough, coercive measures . . . can have no justification," Rubenstein said.