Fri, Apr 20, 2007 - Page 6 News List

US president gives Sudan `one last chance'

TIME'S UP While Washington could give Khartoum weeks to let UN peacekeepers into Darfur, plans being considered include more sanctions and air interdiction

AFP , WASHINGTON

US President George W. Bush gave Sudan on Wednesday one "last chance" to let UN peacekeepers into Darfur, as Washington and London threatened new UN sanctions to force Khartoum's hand.

Britain and the US were set to reach out yesterday to other UN Security Council members to craft new punitive measures, but veto-wielders China and Russia, as well as South Africa, immediately shot down the plan.

Calling the violence plaguing Darfur "genocide" in a speech at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, Bush warned Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir that Khartoum faced tougher US sanctions or other punishments if he abandoned his commitments.

"The time for promises is over, president Bashir must act," Bush said. "If president Bashir does not meet his obligations, the United States will act."

Bush said he would direct US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to prepare a UN resolution to apply new sanctions, expand the arms embargo against Sudan and prevent "offensive military flights" over Darfur.

Bush also warned of "sterner measures" tied to Khartoum's alleged use of military aircraft to pound targets in Darfur, where an estimated 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2 million more displaced since 2003.

A reliable source said US officials were considering options, including creating a no-fly zone or even destroying Sudanese government airplanes on the ground.

But White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters that while Bush on principle would not take military options off the table, "it's not anything I hear [being] actively discussed."

US officials explained that Bush's hard line aimed to dampen what Washington considers irrational exuberance over Sudan's agreement on Monday to allow UN support forces to go help under-equipped African Union peacekeepers in Darfur.

Bush noted that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was in talks with Bashir on the deployment of peacekeepers to Darfur.

"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," he said.

He warned that Bashir only had "a short period of time" to comply before Washington would impose a series of economic sanctions and seek reinforced UN sanctions.

But the US State Department later said Washington was willing to give Khartoum "weeks" to follow through on its promise to allow UN peacekeepers.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the new UN sanctions would seek to pressure Sudan to allow international forces into Darfur as well as impose sanctions against individuals responsible for violence there.

"We have waited and waited," Blair said.

"We have tried diplomacy and negotiation again and again with the Sudanese government and they have to get the message that the international community will not allow the scandal that is Darfur to continue," he said.

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