US Tries to Walk Back From Comments Downplaying Genocide in Darfur

Jun 18, 2009 5:41pm

ABC News' Kirit Radia reports: Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration's comments yesterday that Darfur is experiencing only the "remnants of genocide," thus implying the troubled region's worst violence is in the past, have exposed a deep disagreement on the matter within the Obama administration. Just two days earlier US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice described the situation as "genocide" and at a press conference in Germany earlier this month President Obama used the phrase "ongoing genocide." After Gration's comments yesterday, Rice was furious, according to US officials. The remarks touched off a debate within the administration, which is working to complete its policy review on Sudan. The debate continued today, and even delayed the start of the State Department daily briefing by over an hour until language could be agreed upon at the National Security Council, officials said. Today, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affair PJ Crowley walked back from Gration's comments when asked to explain the discrepancy. "I think there is no question that genocide has taken place in Darfur. We continue to characterize the circumstances in Darfur as genocide," Crowley said. When asked if Gration had misspoken, Crowley said: "there's room in the administration for a debate about the interpretation of the facts that go into that judgment." Gration's comments also irked the Darfur advocacy community. "President Obama and Ambassador Rice recently labeled the situation in Darfur as an ongoing genocide, and it is troubling that key players in the administration are not singing from the same song sheet with regard to this fundamental issue," Save Darfur Coalition President Jerry Fowler said in a statement today. John Norris, Executive Director of the Enough Project, told ABC News today that his group believes genocide is ongoing in Darfur. "We believe that the ongoing efforts by the government of Sudan meet the classic definition. That they, through their actions, not only through their support of the Janjaweed, government denials, denial of humanitarian aid, seem to be designed to destroy people in whole or in part," he said. ABC News' Elizabeth Gorman and Devin Dwyer contributed to this report.

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