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US Lawmakers, Commission Urge Obama to Focus on Sudan

The Obama administration is being urged to quickly focus on the situation in Sudan and the ongoing suffering in Darfur. Key members of Congress renewed a call on Wednesday for the appointment of a presidential envoy for Sudan, while the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom issued a set of recommendations for U.S. policy.

Among its nearly two dozen policy recommendations, the commission urges the administration to increase U.S. engagement on Sudan, particularly when it comes to the fragile Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA.

A U.S. presidential envoy should be appointed as soon as possible, it says, to coordinate American efforts to speed up implementation of the agreement.

"Today, four years after the signing of the CPA, it is our conclusion that peace is in jeopardy. Key provisions of the CPA have not been enacted. And this is mostly due to the intransigence and, some would say, the duplicity of the president of Sudan,"said Commission Chairwoman, Felice Gaer.

The commission warns that unraveling of the CPA would also damage efforts to end the killing in Sudan's Darfur region.

It wants the Obama administration to enlist international support for peace in Sudan, including China and other nations with a major stake in access to Sudan's oil reserves.

Among its recommendations, the commission says the United States should encourage parties to the agreement to move ahead with national, Southern and state elections, and ensure that the results of a referendum in Southern Sudan to be held in 2011 are respected.

It also urges peaceful resolution of the issue of Abyei, a contested oil-rich region, and full implementation of power and wealth-sharing, human rights and other provisions of the CPA.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers in Washington appeared with commission members in support of the recommendations.

Democratic Representative Barbara Lee called for action to change the direction of events in Sudan. "With Khartoum now continuing to obstruct the deployment of peacekeeping troops, we need very bold action now to change the dynamic on the ground and bring an end to the violence," he said.

Republican Congressman Frank Wolf said President Obama should act within the next few weeks to appoint a special envoy who should have the same access and visibility as U.S envoys for the Middle East, and Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"And it should be the same credibility for that appointment where I would even say whereby they [should be] in the Rose Garden, in the Oval Office, or standing next to Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton and the president," he said.

Republican Chris Smith warned against U.S. and international "fatigue," regarding the situation in Darfur and Sudan. "The pressure has to be ratcheted up. There has to be a point person," he said.

Prominent activist John Prendergast says a U.S. envoy should head a team like the one under the Bush administration that worked for conclusion of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and bring other countries along.

"And we need to bring China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other countries that are slowly, increasingly concerned with [Sudanese president Omar] Bashir and the liability that he represents to their investments and to their broader regional strategies, we need to bring those countries along in our strategy to bringing about change in Sudan," he said.

Among other recommendations, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom says the United States should work for the establishment of security guarantees for Southern Sudan to deter potential efforts by Khartoum to renew the North-South civil war.

It urges a range of steps to strengthen the rule of law and court system in the South, help improve the economy there, and expand U.S. private investment.