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US envoy denies existence of secret ’annex’ to Sudan policy document

By Daniel Van Oudenaren

December 3, 2009 (WASHINGTON) – The U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan, Major General (Ret.) Scott Gration, in an apparent contradiction of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, today testified to a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives that there is no classified "annex" to the official Sudan policy document released in October.

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U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration (Reuters)

Secretary Clinton had referred to "a classified annex to our strategy," containing "a menu of incentives and disincentives." She announced this on October 19 as part of the public roll-out of a U.S. strategy on Sudan. The annex was thought to include specific benchmarks for monitoring progress made or lost on achieving U.S. goals.

Today Mr. Gration instead alluded to "working papers and policy deliberations that we went through." He said, "I don’t know of any quote ’annex’, but I do know that there are working papers that we use as we deliberate."

His disclosure came while he was under questioning by critical lawmakers. Two New Jersey congressmen and a Kansas senator led the subcommittee in open criticism of the U.S. policy on Sudan.

Congressman Christopher Smith (R-NJ) first raised the issue, complaining that he had requested five times for a classified briefing on the unreleased portions of the policy. "The Secretary of State pointed out that it’s classified," he said, adding that he saw this refusal as "very, very troubling."

"There is no annex," Mr. Gration insisted when pressed by Rep. Smith, though he did assent to give a briefing. "I’m telling you that I’ve never seen one. The only thing I’ve seen is the classified working papers that are part of the NSC [National Security Council]."

Mr. Gration’s remark raises questions about what status the Administration conferred on the so-called "classified annex." It is unclear whether the National Security Council ever in fact endorsed any classified portion of the U.S. policy document released on October 19, 2009.

Senior officials forming part of an interagency team will meet in early 2010 for the first in a series of quarterly reviews of implementation of the U.S. strategy.

LAWMAKERS AND ENVOY AT ODDS OVER STRATEGY

Today’s event was further marked by moments of tense exchange between Senator Samuel Brownback and Special Envoy Gration.

Since his appointment in March of this year, Mr. Gration has engaged with Sudan’s dominant political party in order to mediate in the country’s multiple peace processes. Senator Brownback pressed Mr. Gration to acknowledge that he is negotiating with high-level officials who are involved in perpetrating an “ongoing genocide in Sudan.” The envoy, who was forcefully questioned on this point, finally effectively acknowledged this to be the case.

In a statement to the chamber, Senator Brownback said that the Obama administration has settled on a policy that would "flaunt the fundamental principles of justice and accountability. I strongly oppose any approach towards Sudan that gives incentives and rewards to a genocidal regime headed by the Sudanese president who is an indicted war criminal himself."

However, Mr. Gration defended his engagement with government officials. "That is the only way we have been able to reach agreements on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. It is the only way we have been able to reach agreements on humanitarian assistance in Darfur, it is the only way we have been able to reach agreements on Chad and border conflicts."

Mr. Gration pointed to several key indicators of progress in preventing a slide back toward civil war between the National Congress Party and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. He said that the parties have resolved 10 out of 12 major outstanding issues. The two remaining disputes relate to the census results and border demarcation.

After giving his testimony, Mr. Gration approached Senator Brownback to continue their discussion. They are in disagreement.

Another lawmaker who voiced criticism was Congressman Donald Payne (D-NJ), the chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health. He favors tougher sanctions and invited Enrico Carisch, a Swiss finance expert involved in monitoring arms trafficking.

Mr. Carisch testified, "In contrast to that leadership of 2004 and 2005, the United States appears to have now joined the group of influential states who sit by quietly and do nothing to ensure that sanctions work to protect Darfurians."

(ST)