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Bush signs Sudan peace act

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WASHINGTON, Dec 23, 2004 (AP) — President Bush on Thursday signed legislation that authorizes $300 million to help victims of violence and support peace talks in the African nation of Sudan.

The bill, passed by the Senate in a voice vote on Dec. 7, also encourages Bush to impose sanctions on Sudan’s government. The House passed the measure in November.

The United Nations has described violence in Sudan’s western Darfur region as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. A U.N. report issued earlier this month said 2.3 million people in the region need aid.

The violence started in February 2003 when two non-Arab African groups began a rebellion. The government responded by backing Arab militias who have been accused of killing and raping civilians. The United States says the militias have committed genocide.

The bill authorizes $200 million in aid, including money for the deployment of more African peacekeepers in the region, and another $100 million as an incentive for reaching a final peace agreement in the 21-year war between the Sudanese government and the southern rebel group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. That conflict is separate from the Darfur violence.

The bill Bush signed authorizes the money, but does not actually provide the funds. That money would have to come from a separate spending bill or by shifting of funds from other programs.

The bill’s sponsor, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar said the Darfur crisis, combined with the civil war, shows the importance of making a long-term investment in Africa’s future to battle against corruption, instability, war and famine.

On the net: The White House press statement

- The bill number is S.2781

- For bill text: http://thomas.loc.gov