The Bush administration is calling for the U.S. Congress to hold off on approving additional sanctions on Sudan, saying further economic pressure could hurt diplomatic efforts that have begun to show progress. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.
The Senate is considering legislation that would encourage efforts in U.S. states to divest from companies that do business with Sudan. The House of Representatives passed a similar measure in July, but the Bush administration argues the bill would interfere with the president's role in making foreign policy.
Administration officials also say the measure could hurt diplomatic efforts and plans for a combined African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission in Sudan's western province of Darfur.
It is a point underscored by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Finance and Development Elizabeth Dribble at a hearing of the Senate Banking Committee.
"Required divestment will be seen by our allies as a U.S.-government action targeting their companies and could affect our ability to obtain the cooperation on mutual action with respect to Sudan," she said. "Some of these key allies will providing troops and equipment for the African Union-U.N. hybrid peacekeeping force."
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer, also expressed concern about the proposed legislation.
"We are also concerned that some initiatives to increase economic pressure on Sudan would damage our relationship with our European partners rather than increase pressure on Khartoum, and may further complicate efforts to carry out our substantial assistance programs," she said.
President Bush tightened sanctions against the government of Sudan in May. The administration argues the action has been effective, resulting in Khartoum changing its position on the deployment of peacekeepers to Darfur.
But John Prendergast, co-chairman of the nonprofit ENOUGH Project that works to end the violence in Darfur, urged Congress to pass the tougher sanctions bill.
"The worst thing we could do now is to let up, because the deadly mistake that has been made on Darfur repeatedly during the last four-and-a-half years has been precisely what the administration proposes now, to reduce pressure, to let up," he said. "That will ensure the same results that we have had over the last four-and-a-half years. If Congress backs off now, we will go back to the status quo, guaranteed".
Senator Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, agrees.
"One of the best ways to unify our efforts is to make sure the federal government gives state and local governments the authority to do what we know can have an impact," he said.
Earlier this week, Congress passed and sent to President Bush a separate bill that increases penalties on companies that do business with Sudan and Iran.