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Envoy To Sudan On New U.S. Policy

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And we're joined now by the U.S. special envoy to Sudan, Major General Scott Gration, who is at the State Department today. Welcome to the program.

Mr. SCOTT GRATION (U.S. Special Envoy To Sudan): Thank you very much, Melissa.

BLOCK: I want to talk to you about some of the language that was used today. Ambassador Rice specifically mentioned, in her words, the genocide that is taking place in Darfur - present tense. And I noticed that you didn't use the word genocide at all. Earlier this year you talked about the remnants of genocide in Sudan. And that word obviously carries a lot of freight with it. Does it apply, do you think, to the situation now in Sudan?

Mr. GRATION: Sure. I agree totally with the words that the president has used, the words that Secretary Clinton used and, also, Ambassador Rice. What we have here is a situation that has to be changed. And what we're dedicated is to make sure that the people that are living in dire, in unacceptable conditions that are a result of the conflict of the genocide, that we can change their lives, that we can help create an environment where they can have a better future. Where next generation of Sudanese don't have to endure the loss and the pain and the suffering. And that's what we're dedicated for right now.

BLOCK: And just to be clear, you would say, then, that there is an ongoing genocide in Darfur right now?

Mr. GRATION: I'm saying just exactly the way the president said it.

BLOCK: Well, Secretary Clinton has talked about an ongoing genocide and that you would agree with that?

Mr. GRATION: What I'm saying is that the definitional aspects of it are important and we've discussed those. The administration's position is extremely clear. And right now we have to move forward and change the situation on the ground, so people have a better life.

BLOCK: General Gration, I'd like to ask you about something that you said last month. You were quoted in a profile in The Washington Post talking about the regime in Sudan, and were quoted this way: You said, "We've got to think about giving out cookies - kids, countries, they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes, agreements, talk, engagement." And you were roundly criticized for that. Can you explain what you meant and how, if it all, it's reflected in the policy that was announced today?

Mr. GRATION: Yes. That statement was grossly taken out of context. In diplomacy, it's very common to use pressures and incentives. In fact, it's at the heart of diplomacy. And this strategy uses incentives and pressures that are based on objective milestones and benchmarks, and we will give out incentives when we see progress going in the right way and when there's backsliding or stalemate. And then we'll have to use the pressures. We will have periodic reviews every quarter, where the deputy's committee will be able to analyze and review what has happened on the ground. And then we'll make a collective judgment on how to proceed.

BLOCK: You said that statement was grossly taken out of context, did you use those words, talking about cookies and gold stars as some of these incentives that you're talking about?

Mr. GRATION: What I said is that incentives and pressures are used in a variety of walks of life, whether they be parents and parenting, whether they be in school, whether they be in the workplace, what we're concentrated in this situation is diplomacy where pressures and incentives are part of how we achieve our national objectives.

BLOCK: At the same time, General Gration, I imagine a critic would say you're not dealing with a recalcitrant child here. You're dealing with a government of a president: President Bashir, who's been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

Mr. GRATION: Of course we understand that. And nobody's ever equated him to a recalcitrant child. What we're saying is that right now we're going to be focused on achieving a peace in Darfur by ending the conflict, the gross human rights abuses. We're going to be fully implementing the comprehensive peace agreement to ensure that the south has an opportunity to express their will in January of 2011 to either be united or become a separate country.

And we're going to do everything we can to ensure that Sudan does not become a haven for terrorists. In fact, is that they become partners in the global effort to get rid off terrorism. At the same time, we understand that there will never be a lasting peace unless accountability and justice are part of the solution.

BLOCK: Accountability and justice, would that include the arrest and trial of President Bashir?

Mr. GRATION: We are encouraging the Sudanese to be responsive to the request of the ICC. At the same time, there's a report coming out from Mbeki and his panel that we'll wait to see what's in there. I know the AU is working on a project and options. We're just going to have to wait and see how all this comes out.

BLOCK: By Mbeki, you're referring to Thabo Mbeki of South Africa?

Mr. GRATION: I am.

BLOCK: General Gration, thank you for talking with us.

Mr. GRATION: Thank you.

BLOCK: That's General Scott Gration. He's the U.S. special envoy to Sudan. He spoke with us from the State Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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