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August 4, 2009

U.S. Suggests Softened Darfur Stance

The Obama administration may soften some sanctions against the Sudan government, the Los Angeles Times reports.

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President Obama's envoy to Sudan, J. Scott Gration, said that the Khartoum government has shown a willingness to allow aid to be delivered to the region.

The government expelled several humanitarian groups earlier this year after an international court accused Sudan's president of war crimes in Darfur.

"We see that there is a spirit of cooperation and an attitude of wanting to help," Gration said. ... "There's ways that we can roll back these sanctions in a way that allows us to lift the restrictions we need, such that the government continues to be sanctioned and military equipment continues to be sanctioned," he said.

The new approach has sparked fierce debate among Obama's advisors and is causing consternation among some of his strongest supporters, who had expected the president to toughen U.S. policy toward a government that he had sharply criticized as untrustworthy during last year's presidential campaign.

The article states that the International Criminal Court estimates that about 135,000 people have been killed or died from disease and starvation, and more than 2.5 million people remain displaced in Darfur.

Last week, Gration told Congress that he did not think there was any evidence to continually mark Sudan as a sponsor of terrorism. The Washington Times outlines the debate Gration has with U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan E. Rice.

Mr. Gration has taken a softer line than Ms. Rice toward the regime headed by Sudanese President Omar Bashir, going so far last month as to say that the genocide against the people of Darfur was over and that the world was now dealing with the remnants of the killings.

Ms. Rice has continued to call the situation in Darfur genocide, a label first applied to the situation there by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in 2004 at the height of a campaign against farmers in Darfur by Sudan-government backed fighters known as Janjaweed.

Image: President Obama's March 31 remarks after meeting with Sudan special envoy Scott Gration, courtesy of the White House.