SUDAN: WHY NOT IMPOSE AN OIL EMBARGO? Chinese FM discusses Sudan with US, Russian, French counterparts
China, India, Malaysia and some European countries are dramatically expanding business ties with Sudan, taking advantage of U.S. sanctions that bar American companies from operating here, local officials and foreign diplomats say. Companies from those countries — some of which are at least partially state-owned — are investing billions of dollars and working closely with the Khartoum government with little concern about its role in recent mass killings in Sudan's Darfur region, Western diplomats say. "They couldn't care less how many people are dying in Darfur — that's not how they conduct their policies," one senior diplomat said. "Everyone has an agenda here. Sudan has oil, gold and a major port on the Red Sea."
These companies also are replacing old American technology sold before the sanctions, which were imposed unilaterally by Washington in stages during the 1990s to punish Khartoum for its support of terrorism and human rights abuses, the diplomats say. "Most of the cotton-gin machinery here is American, but they can't get spare parts. So Chinese companies provide inferior — but nevertheless suitable — replacement parts," another senior Western diplomat said.
"They are also starting to replace those machines. They are signing contracts for $20 million — and it's not only the sales, but the subsequent business of supplying parts for the machines," he said. "So the Chinese are beginning to take this piece of the market away from the Americans."
Chinese companies also are building oil refineries, pipelines and production facilities. Officials in Beijing have boasted that they helped Sudan change from an importer to exporter of oil. U.S. companies traditionally had been among the most active foreign investors in Sudan. Their fortunes, however, worsened when relations between the two countries began to deteriorate after the 1991 Gulf war, during which a fundamentalist Islamic government in Khartoum supported Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
In the early- and mid-1990s, Sudan provided refuge to some of the world's most-wanted terrorists and criminals, including Osama bin Laden, Carlos the Jackal and Abu Nidal. Because of its support for those and other extremists, it was blacklisted by the State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993.
In 1996, the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum was closed, and a year later, Washington imposed economic, trade and financial sanctions. The embassy reopened last year, but with only a skeleton staff.
The United States succeeded on July 30 in passing a U.N. Security Council resolution giving Sudan 30 days to rein in and start disarming the Janjaweed Arab militias responsible for tens of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees in Darfur.
At the end of that period, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is to report to the council on the government's actions. A negative report will open to door to measures against Khartoum, such as diplomatic, economic and travel sanctions.
But hardly anyone expects those actions to come close to the severity of the U.S. sanctions, which means they will have no effect on most of the foreign companies' business. An oil embargo is the only punishment that would make a real difference, diplomats say.
"Unless it is credibly threatened with painful sanctions, such as an oil embargo, the Sudanese government will make no serious attempt to ease the plight of its black African citizens," Britain's Economist magazine wrote earlier this month.
China, a permanent Security Council member, is not likely to vote for an oil embargo or any other meaningful sanctions, council diplomats said.
"The best we can hope for from the Chinese is an abstention," one diplomat said.
Chinese officials, when accused by the West of turning a blind eye to Sudan's human rights abuses, say, unlike the United States, they separate politics from business.
However, that rule seems not to apply to countries that recognize Taiwan's independence, Western diplomats point out. Beijing considers the island part of China and turns its back on states that differ.
In addition, Beijing, whose own human rights record often is criticized, maintains that punishing Sudan economically would be interfering in its internal affairs. China is Sudan's largest trading partner, according to the CIA World Factbook, followed by Japan, Saudi Arabia, India, Britain and Germany.
Although the Europeans are more likely to support the United States, they have been slow to respond to the Darfur crisis with any specific and credible threats. Several European airlines have regular flights to Sudan, and European companies are investing in a variety of sectors.
A German businessman, whose company hopes to build a new airport in Sudan, said during a recent Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt that shortage of money has never been an issue. The Sudanese "may be slow in doing almost everything, but they are always on time when it comes to paying their bills," he said.
U.S. trade sanctions have given trademark regulations in Sudan a whole new meaning. The leading hotel in Khartoum uses the Hilton name and logo even though it is not part of the well-known chain.
A little more creativity has been used to exploit the popularity of American food brands. Fast-food restaurants with the McDonald's golden arches in front bear the name Lucky Meal. Pizza Hut has been replaced by Pizza Hot.
The Sudanese are not likely to experience the real thing again anytime soon, as a change of U.S. policy is nowhere in sight. "Sudan is a state sponsor of terrorism, and Congress has mandated that there should be sanctions," a senior State Department official said.
- - -
CHINESE FM DISCUSSES SUDAN WITH US, RUSSIAN, FRENCH COUNTERPARTS
Here is a copy, in full, of a China News report:
BEIJING, Aug 23, 2004 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing talked over phone with US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier on Monday night, respectively.
Li exchanged views with his three counterparts on the Darfur crisis in Sudan. All parties agreed in the conversation that their delegates to the United Nations will keep contacts and coordinate with each other on the issue.
Li and Lavrov said that they will make well preparation for Russian President Vladimir Putin's upcoming China visit and the ninth meeting between premiers of the two countries in a bid to ensure the visit and the meeting to bear active fruits.
Li and Barnier agreed to continue to promote Sino-French cooperation in the fields of economy, trade and science, and make joint efforts in the preparatory work for French President Jacques Chirac's China visit in fall.
During Li's phone talks with Powell, Powell briefed Li on the latest development of the case of Chinese businesswoman Zhao Yan and reiterated that the US side will promptly and properly handle the case."
- - -
AUGUST 25 IS SUDAN DAY OF CONSCIENCE
MeetUps being held across America
Today, August 25 in America is Sudan Day of Conscience. MeetUps for Sudan peace supporters are taking place across America.
To join in the effort, I have published several posts at Passion of the Present, sharing news of UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's visit to Khartoum, the British Government's policy on Sudan and what others are saying. Also to mark the day, the posts will appear in this blog.
- - -
SONG FOR SUDAN
Read the lyrics here
Warm thanks to Doug at Quadrophrenia for posting the lyrics of Song for Sudan.
- - -
Aug 18 : Families on the Fringe - Dalih, North Darfur:
More than 7,000 people have been camped in the tiny village of Dalih, 3 km outside Tawila in North Darfur since February. They are living in some of the most miserable conditions seen anywhere in the world, squatting in school buildings and abandoned huts or living in rudimentary shelters clustered together near the schools.
Maurice Herson, a senior humanitarian manager for Oxfam UK who recently visited Dalih explains:
“Their shelters are nothing more than bits of dried thorny shrubs that have been heaped – almost as if by the wind – into little circles and semicircles."
"One of these piles of twigs and sticks has a diameter of about a metre and a half, with a few tattered pieces of faded, dirty cloth stretched across one side to provide some relief from the sun."
"Five families live in this space. They told me that the women and children crowd inside at night to sleep, while the men sleep outside in the space between the shelters."
“Some of the other families I met had been given plastic sheeting by another aid agency. But as they don’t have anything to attach it to the wind blows it away so they simply huddle underneath it when it rains.”
“What I saw in Dalih is human misery more or less at its worst. My heart goes out to the elderly people in particular. This is a sad way to move towards the end of your life.” [Full Story]
- - -
Aug 24: Copy of letter to Prime Minister of Canada from leaders of Canadian churches urging Canada to take a stand and act boldly on Darfur.