SUDAN WATCH: Retired US Air Force Officer Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration tipped to be US gov't special envoy to Sudan

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Retired US Air Force Officer Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration tipped to be US gov't special envoy to Sudan


Photo: Major General Jonathan S. Gration. Reitred Oct. 1, 2006. (Source: AFL Biography)

From New York Times by Peter Baker March 17, 2009 - excerpt:
Adding Pressure to Sudan, Obama Will Tap Retired General as Special Envoy
President Obama plans to appoint a close adviser and retired general to be his special envoy to Sudan administration officials said Tuesday.

Mr. Obama will tap Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, a Swahili-speaking retired Air Force officer who grew up in Africa as the son of missionaries, to take on one of the most delicate diplomatic missions of his presidency, according to three administration officials, who were not authorized to discuss the selection before the official announcement on Wednesday.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton escalated the administration’s oratory on Tuesday, vowing to hold President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan responsible for the expulsion of aid groups.

“This is a horrendous situation that is going to cause untold misery and suffering for the people of Darfur, particularly those in the refugee camps,” she told reporters. “The real question is what kind of pressure can be brought to bear on President Bashir and the government in Khartoum to understand that they will be held responsible for every single death that occurs in those camps.”

The sharper tone and the appointment of General Gration come after criticism from activists who once saw Mr. Obama and his team as allies in the struggle to save the people of Darfur. During the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama lamented the “stain on our souls” left by the mass death in Darfur and vowed “never again.” Mrs. Clinton called for a no-flight zone. And Susan E. Rice, a top Obama adviser, even envisioned a bombing campaign to save victims.
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Obama & Gration

Photo: Retired Maj. Gen. Scott Gration (left) stands behind US President Barack Obama during the presidential election campaign, March 2008 (AP) Source: Sudan Tribune March 18, 2009

U.N. envoy says Sudan wants "normal dealings" with U.S.
From Reuters Wed Mar 18, 2009 12:14pm EDT by Louis Charbonneau
INTERVIEW-Sudan ready to talk to US envoy, wants normalcy
UNITED NATIONS, March 18, 2009 (Reuters) - Sudan's U.N. ambassador said on Wednesday that Khartoum was ready for constructive talks with a new U.S. special envoy, adding that he hoped Washington was prepared to reciprocate.

"Sudan wants constructive engagement and normal dealings with the U.S.," Sudanese Ambassador Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem told Reuters in an interview.

"We are ready for dialogue and cooperation," he said. "We hope the U.S. will reciprocate."

As the humanitarian crisis in Sudan's western Darfur region worsens, U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to announce the appointment of retired Air Force General Scott Gration as his special envoy to Sudan, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.

Sudan expelled 13 aid groups after the International Criminal Court charged Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir with war crimes in Darfur, where 4.7 million people rely on foreign assistance for food, shelter and protection from fighting between rebels and government-backed forces.

Abdalhaleem said Khartoum had not been informed of Obama's choice of Gration as his special envoy, nor had it been consulted. He said Sudan was withholding judgment on the wisdom of the choice for the time being.

"We will address this issue and decide on the basis of his mandate, what he brings and what he stands for," he said.

Abdalhaleem has previously said that Khartoum would prefer that the United States appointed a full ambassador to Sudan, not a special envoy. The U.S. Embassy in Khartoum is headed by a lower level official, known as a charge d'affaires.

The United States imposed economic sanctions on Sudan in 1997 and labeled it a "state sponsor of terrorism." Khartoum has been pushing for full normalization of relations with Washington and an end to more than a decade of U.S. sanctions.

Gration, a decorated fighter pilot and son of missionary parents, was raised in Africa and is fluent in Swahili.

Obama has pledged U.S. help in addressing the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, where U.N. officials say as many as 300,000 people have died since rebels rose up against the Khartoum government in 2003. Sudan says around 10,000 people have died.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Washington's U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, have condemned Sudan's move to expel humanitarian aid agencies and have urged Khartoum to reverse the decision. Rice has spoken of "ongoing genocide" in Darfur, a description that Sudan's government rejects. (Editing by Eric Beech)


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