Sudan Peace Act seen at odds with oil interests, diplomacy

by Lawrence Morahan, posted Monday, February 11, 2002 (17 years ago)

WASHINGTON (BP)--A measure which would bar oil companies that do business in Sudan from being listed on U.S. stock exchanges has stalled in the Senate, according to CNSNews.com. The bill has become the target of political and economic interests who are putting improved diplomatic relations with the Islamic regime in Khartoum ahead of efforts to end the civil war, activists who have been raising the issue said.

The Sudan Peace Act, versions of which passed overwhelmingly in the House and Senate last year, is in danger of legislative extinction after the Senate's Republican leadership blocked efforts to appoint conferees to reconcile both versions of the bill during the week of Feb. 4.

Unless the Senate names conferees who will work on a final version of the bill with their 15 counterparts in the House, the bill is likely to die.

But some analysts said that is exactly what the Senate Republican leadership is hoping for.

"I think what's happened is the Republicans are afraid that this measure -- which would bring a tremendous amount of pressure to bear on Khartoum -- will pass," said Eric Reeves, a leading Sudan peace activist.

But the bill has some powerful opponents in the financial community, analysts pointed out.

At issue is the potent Capital Market Sanctions provision, which would deny American capital and stock exchange listings to foreign oil companies currently operating in Sudan. This provision, which passed in the House version, faces stiff opposition from Wall Street.

"PAC money from Wall Street on this issue is flooding the Senate," Reeves charged.

Peace activists see the civil war in Sudan as one of the few foreign policy issues that has a chance to be non-partisan and too compelling in moral terms to turn away from.

However, the U.S-led war on terrorism also is playing a part in the Senate's considerations, sources said.

"There are concerns the legislation could damage America's ability to effectively prosecute the war against terrorism," a senior official familiar with the legislation told CNSNews.com.

Sudan's cooperation in tracking possible Al Qaeda operatives within its borders has become an important U.S. consideration in recent months.

The holdup of the Sudan Peace Act coincides with a European Union resolution during the week of Feb. 4 to resume aid to the National Islamic Front (NIF) government in Khartoum, a decision that deals a further setback to supporters of self-determination for the non-Muslim population of southern Sudan.

Resumption of the aid, which was suspended in 1990 because of human rights concerns, enhances Khartoum's diplomatic standing in the international community and could result in an infusion of more than $130 million to the country over the next five years.

Activists now see the Sudan Peace Act as their last chance of curtailing Khartoum's burgeoning oil industry, which finances the civil war. Reports by rights groups agree that oil development is exacerbating, fueling and sustaining the conflict.

Moreover, the European decision signals there is no price to be paid for conducting a jihad against the people of the south. "And jihad is what they say publicly they're doing in conducting war against the non-Muslim population of southern Sudan," Reeves said.

"Nothing has changed in Khartoum's behavior that would warrant the terms the EU spelled out when they referred to 'democratizing,' 'human rights' and other such issues," he added. The NIF has conducted bombing raids against hospitals, churches and refugee stations of non-Muslims in the south for years, observers report.

Many see the resumption of EU aid as motivated primarily by monetary interests, as companies from various European countries are heavily invested in Sudan's oil industry.

At ceasefire negotiations in January in Switzerland, former Republican Sen. John Danforth, President Bush's special envoy to Sudan, proposed confidence-building measures toward ending the conflict, which has raged for more than 20 years and cost the lives of more than 2 million people.

The measures included a halt to the bombing by Khartoum; the creation of an international commission on Khartoum's role in abetting the enslavement of people in the south; creation of temporary "zones of tranquility" for vaccination campaigns; and extension of a one-month ceasefire to an internationally monitored six-month truce.


Morahan is a senior staff writer with www.CNSNews.com. Used by permission.

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