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State Republican Aderholt travels to war-torn Sudan

By Ben Evans
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON — As actor George Clooney took the limelight recently in highlighting the humanitarian crisis in Sudan, Alabama congressman Robert Aderholt quietly visited the northeastern African country to urge its government to end the violence.

In a two-day visit to Khartoum earlier this month, Aderholt met with top Sudanese officials, including President Omar al-Bashir. He said he reinforced a message announced publicly later that the international community was preparing to take strong action against the government if it doesn’t cooperate further on winning peace.

“He received us very well. He was very open,” Aderholt said. “The bottom line is trying to get (United Nations) troops in there to solve the problem.”

Aderholt, a Republican from Haleyville recently elected to his sixth term, is a Christian conservative known for supporting prayer in schools and the posting of the Ten Commandments in public places. But he also has frequently taken up international humanitarian causes.

He said he decided to make the trip to Sudan at the last minute because he thinks lives can be saved.

The visit, which required several days of travel, was sponsored by a Washington-based group called the International Foundation, he said.

“This is one of those issues that sort of gripped me when I first heard about what was happening with the genocide,” Aderholt said.

“I’ve always said I’m pro-life. I think being pro-life means you’re pro-life not just on the abortion issue but with all life, and this for me is definitely a pro-life issue.”

More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million driven from their homes in three years of ethnic conflict in Sudan, which sits just south of Egypt and Libya.

Tribal militias

Western governments and human rights groups accuse the Islamic government of providing arms and money to ethnic Arab tribal militias, called the janjaweed, which have terrorized ethnic African villages in Darfur, killing civilians and burning homes to the ground.

The United States and others have characterized the violence as genocide, and the international community has been criticized for its tepid response.

On Wednesday, White House special envoy Andrew Natsios announced that the international community would take coercive action against the government without more cooperation by the end of the year.

A 7,000-member African Union force has not brought stability to Darfur. That has prompted proposals for a hybrid mission totaling some 20,000 troops from the African Union and the U.N.

But Sudan has been unwilling to go along.

Aderholt is not the only Alabama Republican to become involved in the Sudan crisis.

Rep. Spencer Bachus of Birmingham has proposed legislation to block foreign oil companies doing business in Sudan from raising capital in U.S. financial markets. U.S. companies already are barred from doing business there.

Special envoy

In April, Aderholt, Bachus and Republican Mike Rogers of Saks were among 119 lawmakers to sign a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging the appointment of a special envoy to Sudan.

Aderholt also is a member of the Helsinki Commission, an international group that monitors human rights.

Clooney, an Oscar-winning actor, drew headlines earlier this month when he expressed frustration with inaction on Darfur. Clooney met with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and led delegations to China and Egypt to apply pressure on those countries to help end the violence.

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