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US Congressional Panel Delays Vote on Darfur Divestment

A congressional panel has delayed a vote on legislation that would make it easier for Americans, as well as U.S. states and localities to divest from companies doing business with the government of Sudan. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill.

Activist groups campaigning for stronger U.S. and international action against the Sudanese government because of its policies in Darfur have been waiting for the legislation to make its way through congressional committees.

Called the Darfur Accountability and Divestment Act, it would provide a boost to so-called grassroots divestment efforts aimed at pressing state and local governments, mutual funds and pension funds to cut financial ties to companies operating in Sudan.

The House committee on financial services was to consider the legislation on Wednesday.

However, its chairman Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Barney Frank, explained a committee vote on the measure will have to wait until June because of what he called ongoing discussions regarding the measure.

Frank says the Darfur measure will be similar if not identical to a bill approved by his committee Wednesday that seeks to make it easier for Americans to divest from companies investing in Iran's energy sector.

"It has been our intention to do a similar but not identical bill regarding the desire of many Americans to express their extreme revulsion at what is happening in the Darfur region of Sudan, and there are Americans who want to be able to with regard to the Sudan and those companies that have supported the Sudanese government what we allow people to do with regard to Iran," he said.

Frank attributes the delay to discussions going on with the Darfur measure's main sponsor, California Democrat Barbara Lee, but he offered no other details other than to say he intends to bring the bill back for consideration in June after the upcoming congressional break.

In a related action, the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday approved a resolution aimed at voicing congressional disapproval of China's role in supporting the government of Sudan, including its investment in Sudan's oil sector.

Among other things, the resolution calls on Beijing to acknowledge publicly and condemn atrocities in Darfur, cease all arms and other military equipment sales to Khartoum, and urge the Sudanese government to comply with the deployment of a full United Nations/African Union peacekeeping force.

The resolution also reflects efforts by some U.S. lawmakers to exert pressure on China by connecting the 2008 Olympics to be held in Beijing, with the Darfur issue. They say that the spirit of the Olympics is incompatible with any actions directly or indirectly supporting acts of genocide.