Thursday, September 28, 2006

U.S. Weighs Moves Against Sudan Over U.N. Force

The United States is considering a series of punitive steps if the Sudanese government fails to agree to a U.N. peacekeeping force to end the violence in Sudan's Darfur region, U.S. officials said yesterday. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signaled the new approach in a speech yesterday in which she demanded an immediate cease-fire and warned that Khartoum faces "a choice between cooperation and confrontation."

U.S. officials said the options under consideration include reimposing sanctions that had been eased when Sudan signed a peace agreement last year with southern rebels, as well as taking action against top Sudanese officials who have been implicated in what the United States has labeled acts of genocide in Darfur.

Another option that has received renewed consideration is establishing a "no-fly zone" over Darfur, mainly because the Sudanese military has restarted attacks. But there are practical obstacles to a no-fly zone, including the effect it may have on humanitarian missions, so officials said that decision is not imminent.

Although Rice's Washington speech to the African Society's National Summit on Africa held out the prospect of improved ties between the two countries, relations have worsened dramatically in recent weeks.

U.S. officials detained Sudan's deputy foreign minister at Dulles International Airport for several hours last week and also restricted the travel of Sudan's president, Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan al-Bashir, and his entourage when he came to address the U.N. General Assembly. Bashir was so angry that when he returned to Khartoum, he announced restrictions on the travel of U.S. diplomatic personnel and official U.S. visitors.

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