WASHINGTON -- President Bush said yesterday that if U.N. efforts to bring peace to Darfur do not soon bear fruit, the United States would expand and tighten economic sanctions intended to end what he described as the genocide taking place there.
In his most extensive remarks on the issue, Bush threatened new restrictions on Sudan and those doing business there. He also raised the possibility of seeking international steps to block Sudan's government from flying military aircraft in the region.
"It is evil we're now seeing in Sudan, and we're not going to back down," Bush said.
The president spoke at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum near the White House, associating the horrors inflicted by the Nazis with the campaign against the people of Darfur in the western reaches of Sudan. The Sudanese government has been accused of fighting a rebellion by arming Arab militias, known as janjaweed, to attack civilian populations and rival non-Arab tribes.
Bush said that if Sudan's president, Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir, did not quickly implement his promise to allow the U.N. to send attack helicopters and 3,000 international peacekeepers to Darfur, the U.S. would launch new steps to end the violence.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair echoed that pledge, saying Britain favors "tougher measures and sanctions" in Darfur.
He said the United States and Britain would begin discussions today with other members of the U.N. Security Council on a new U.N. resolution.
"What is happening in Sudan at the moment is unacceptable, is appalling and is a scandal for the international community," Blair told reporters.
Lawrence G. Rossin, the senior international coordinator for the Save Darfur Coalition, an alliance of more than 180 faith-based, advocacy and humanitarian organizations, praised Bush for setting "a fairly high bar" for Bashir to meet.
But Rossin, a former senior U.N. and State Department official, said that Bush would have been justified in imposing sanctions now, without waiting.
Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Bush should have given Sudan a deadline. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, said Bush's approach "will only reinforce Khartoum's perception that the U.S. is unwilling to take tough action to halt the genocide."
A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing diplomatic matters, said Bush had been prepared to announce specific sanctions yesterday but yielded to a request from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to wait to see whether the Sudanese government honors its vow to give U.N. units a greater role.
Britain's U.N. ambassador, Emyr Jones Parry, said, "If Bashir is simply stalling, as is often the case, the sanctions will come down sooner."
New questions about the role of the Sudanese government were raised when a confidential U.N. panel reported that Sudan's government is flying arms into Darfur in planes painted to resemble U.N. aircraft.
James Gerstenzang and Maggie Farley write for the Los Angeles Times.