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U.S. Tweaks Sudan Policy To Offer Incentives


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block at NPR West in California.


And I'm Michele Norris in Washington D.C.

At the State Department today, the Obama administration announced a new approach to dealing with conflicts in Sudan. U.S. officials have debated for months about how to help end the genocide in Darfur and keep Sudan's fragile north-south peace deal from collapsing.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was joined by U.N. ambassador Susan Rice and Scott Gration, the administration's envoy to Sudan, as they announced what they called a calibrated and comprehensive strategy. On Darfur, the secretary said that the intensity of the violence has decreased, but there are still millions of people in need.

Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (Department of State): Our focus is on reversing the ongoing, dire human consequences of genocide by addressing the daily suffering in the refugee camps, protecting civilians from continuing violence, helping displaced persons return to their homes, ensuring that the militias are disarmed and improving conditions on the ground so that the people of Darfur can finally live in peace and security.

KELEMEN: The administration is also putting renewed emphasis on the north-south peace process mainly because of an unforgiving calendar. Next year, Sudan has elections, and in 2011, southerners are to vote in a referendum to decide whether they remain part of Sudan. Clinton says the U.S. will use a mixture of diplomatic tools to keep this on track.

Sec. CLINTON: We have a menu of incentives and disincentives, political and economic, that we will be looking to to either further progress or to create a clear message that the progress we expect is not occurring.

KELEMEN: U.S. officials will talk to authorities in Khartoum about all of this, but there's one person they still plan to avoid: Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur. Administration officials have also made clear that they won't take Sudan off a terrorism blacklist unless there are improvements on the ground. Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said all parties will have benchmarks to meet.

Ms. SUSAN RICE (U.S. Ambassador to U.N.): There will be no rewards for the status quo, no incentives without concrete and tangible progress.

KELEMEN: The tough talk at today's news conference was welcomed by activists, including John Prendergast of the Enough project, who had complained that the Obama administration's envoy seemed to bent on giving Khartoum cookies and gold stars for good behavior.

Mr. JOHN PRENDERGAST (Activist, Enough Project): This moves away from where the U.S. was going with its policy of appeasement that we feared the special envoy was pursuing to one of principled and conditional engagement. I think it's a very strong statement in that regard, and it's the correct one.

KELEMEN: So far the policy doesn't look much different from that of the Bush administration's. Jerry Fowler of the Save Darfur Coalition says he'll be watching closely to see how much President Obama does to follow up.

Mr. JERRY FOWLER (President, Save Darfur Coalition): First and foremost, I think that means his engaging with key heads of state. For example, when he goes to China next month, making this an issue on the agenda with President Hu Jintao.

KELEMEN: Because if the U.S. wants real pressure, then getting Sudan's big business partners like China onboard will be key.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.