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US House Approves Sudan Sanctions Bill

The House of Representatives has approved (416 to 3) legislation that would place sanctions on Sudanese government and military officials considered responsible for atrocities by Arab militias in Darfur.

The Darfur Peace and Accountability Act, a version of which has also been approved by the Senate, seeks to hold specific individuals in Khartoum responsible for what the United States calls genocide in Darfur.

It would block assets of, and deny visas to, those responsible for war crimes or crimes against humanity, and take other steps such as restricting visas of Sudanese officials, and denying entry at U.S. ports to certain Sudan-registered cargo ships or oil tankers.

Republican Congressman Chris Smith heads the House Africa Subcommittee:

"This is a strong bill, it is an important bill, it is an urgent bill," said Chris Smith. "The people of Darfur cannot afford to wait while we continue discussions on how best to confront Khartoum."

The Darfur legislation would block assets of Khartoum officials and family members, military officials, and any individuals implicated in atrocities.

It also contains provisions to increase U.S. assistance to, and support expansion of, the 7,000-member Africa Union peacekeeping mission, while urging the Bush administration to seek formation of a NATO force to assist African troops.

There was widespread bipartisan support for the legislation in the House and Senate, which approved its version last November.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was among a group of lawmakers who recently visited Sudan, holding talks with Khartoum government officials and assessing the situation in Darfur:

"The janjaweed is an extension of the Sudanese military and they are engaged in state-sponsored violence," said Nancy Pelosi. "This must end."

The House bill extends existing U.S. restrictions on Sudan until Congress is satisfied Khartoum is moving to disarm and demobilize janjaweed and all government-allied militias.

The bill also directs that the janjaweed be designated as a foreign terrorist organization, and demands Khartoum cooperate with efforts to disarm and demobilize elements in Sudan of the northern Uganda-based Lord's Resistance Army.

President Bush is given authority to wave sections of the legislation in the interest of U.S. national security.

The legislation also steps up pressure on the National Congress Party in Khartoum to abide by all commitments in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005. The party and the former southern rebels' Sudan People's Liberation Movement form the new Government of National Unity.

A separate Darfur-related resolution approved by the Senate last month, is pending in the House.

Among other things, that measure urges Khartoum to immediately withdraw military aircraft from Darfur, urges the United Nations to approve a peacekeeping force, and directs President Bush to work for establishment of a NATO interim civilian protection force.