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Obama Administration To Unveil New Sudan Policy

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WASHINGTON — The Obama administration plans to roll out a new policy toward Sudan with an eye toward engaging the government in Khartoum but also warning that continued violence in Darfur will result in penalties, U.S. officials said Friday.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, and the administration's special Sudan envoy, Scott Gration, are to unveil the policy Monday at a news conference at the State Department, the officials said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Congress has not yet been briefed on the matter.

The announcement is planned to show unity within the Obama administration. Rice and Gration have notoriously clashed over engaging with the Sudanese government of President Omar al-Bashir, who has been charged by the International Criminal Court with crimes against humanity and war crimes for allegedly masterminding deadly attacks throughout Darfur.

Gration has argued in public for a less strict line toward Bashir, who he has told officials is the key to resolving the situation in Darfur as well as in southern Sudan, which in 2005 signed a provisional peace deal with the government in Khartoum, ending Africa's longest-runnning civil war.

However, the officials said the new policy will not make major concessions to Bashir, whose government is designated a "state sponsor of terrorism" by the State Department.

Instead, the new policy is designed to bring Khartoum into the fold by offering incentives for improved relations for improvements in the situation in Darfur as well as in southern Sudan, which will hold a referendum on succession scheduled to take place in 2011, they said.

The Darfur conflict began in February 2003 when ethnic African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Sudanese government in Khartoum, claiming discrimination and neglect.

U.N. officials say the war has claimed at least 300,000 lives from violence, disease and displacement. They say some 2.7 million people were driven from their homes and at its height, in 2003-2005, it was called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.