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Interview on the NewsHour with Gwen Ifill

John Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State
Washington, DC
April 24, 2007

QUESTION: For an update on the political and diplomatic efforts on the ground, we turn to Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte who has just returned from a tour of the region. He joins us from the State Department.

Mr. Ambassador, welcome.

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Thank you.

QUESTION: You have just returned -- it's been nearly a year since last May's brokered agreement with the Sudanese Government and the rebel groups there. What has happened since then?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Well, I think regrettably, Gwen, the situation has not improved. In fact, I visited an internally displaced persons camp in Darfur whose population had doubled since the signing of the peace accord last May. Security hasn't improved either. The government has not disarmed these Arab militias, which could not exist without government support and financing. And there's been little progress towards the acceptance by the government of Sudan of additional international peacekeeping forces which are really urgently needed to help stabilize the situation in the Darfur region.

QUESTION: The Government of Sudan, of course, is headed by President Umar al-Bashir who you met with. What did he tell you? You came back saying you were discouraged after your meeting. What did he tell you when you asked about these things?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Well, I think the main thing that he indicated was that he felt the United Nations had only a minimal role to play in the Darfur situation. That basically this should be handled by the African Union and the United Nations should simply write a check to support the international union forces.

Our position and the international community's position, on the other hand, is that the African Union forces in and of themselves are not adequate to the task, that a peacekeeping mission to be effective must be conducted according to United Nations practices and standards and a much more robust force is needed there on an urgent basis. Right now there are 5,000 African Union forces in the Darfur region, military forces that is, and we believe that that number should be somewhere between 17 and 20,000 not just 5,000.

QUESTION: If President Bashir were to decide tomorrow to go along with your suggestion, which it doesn't look like he's about to do, how do you know that he would keep any of the promises he's made since there have been so many made and broken before?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Well, that's an excellent question. And so what he says would not be sufficient in and of itself. We have a quite long experience with commitments of this kind undertaken in the past and then not fulfilled. So I think we would also want to insist on full and prompt implementation. And for us the test is not the commitment in and of itself or the piece of paper that is signed, but the fact of improvement in the situation on the ground and the full-fledged implementation of the undertakings that have been put forward.

QUESTION: You have used some strong language about this situation since you've been back. You said the government gives the impression of being guilty of a deliberate campaign of intimidation and you've also said time is running out. When you say time, what do you mean, days, weeks, months?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Well, as the President said -- he outlined a number of possible steps that he would take if the situation was not dramatically improved in the near future. I hesitate to put a specific time line on this, but I would say it's a matter of weeks.

QUESTION: So when you say steps, you mean sanctions? You mean forbidding U.S. companies from doing business with businesses controlled by the Government of Sudan?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: It would be -- the President did outline a number of different sanctions, of naming additional individuals who would be blacklisted, if you will, the possibility of preventing the Sudanese air force from carrying out its activities over the Darfur area and a whole range of other possible steps.

QUESTION: While you were traveling in Africa, you also went to Mauritania, where you met with an assistant foreign secretary from China. Are part of these steps also to ask countries like China or to demand of countries like China which trade with Sudan, which do business with the Sudan, to also -- for them to impose sanctions as well?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Well, if it came to -- and the President did mention the fact that we would begin consulting with other members of the Security Council of the United Nations about the possibility of an additional UN Security Council resolution that would impose additional sanctions on Sudan, so that's one possibility. Also, with respect to China, I would say that we have had an extensive dialogue with officials from that country with respect to the situation in Darfur. The President has even spoken to the Premier of China with respect to our concern about Darfur.

And I think that we have an agreement with -- an understanding with China about the importance of impressing upon the authorities of the Sudan, the importance of them coming into compliance with the wishes and demands of both the international community and the people in Darfur themselves who are so tragically affected by this situation.

QUESTION: Let me get that clear. You have an understanding with China that they too would impose sanctions?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: No, I didn't mean to imply that they've agreed to sanctions. What I meant to say is that they appreciate the importance of this situation and they, along with us, have worked hard to impress upon the Government of Sudan the importance of Sudan accommodating the wishes and demands of the international community in regard to Darfur.

QUESTION: And in regard to the United Nations, the new Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is the one who asked to -- for a little bit of extra time to make a diplomatic solution work. Do you sense that there is any appetite at the United Nations for sanctions or for a new resolution?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Well, I think we'll have to wait and see. I think that certainly, the members of the Security Council and the Secretary General have all agreed already that there should be this three-phase package with respect to international peacekeeping efforts in Darfur; that is to say a light support package, which is already in the process of being implemented, a heavy support package, which would be sort of enabling elements. It designs to buttress the African Union forces that are already there. And then the African Union-United Nations hybrid group, which would be the 10 or 12,000 -- 10,000 or so additional peacekeepers who we would visualize sending to the Darfur area on an urgent basis.

I think the important point to stress here is that this is a package, it's a package that needs to be dealt with as a whole and we -- what we are seeking at the moment is for Sudan to agree not only to the first and second elements of the package, but to all three.

QUESTION: Before you go tonight, we want to ask you a question about Iran. There is a report about today that says that several world powers are considering a proposal to allow Iran to keep some of its uranium enrichment program as part of a deal that the United States is apparently also on board with. Is that so?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: I'm afraid I don't have anything for you on that question. What I can say, of course, is that our position remains with respect to Iran, that it must suspend its enrichment activities in order to come into compliance with existing United Nations resolutions.

QUESTION: Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, thank you very much for joining us.

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Thank you.

2007/320



Released on April 24, 2007

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