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Editorial | Genocide in Darfur

Make the words count

When the violence in Sudan's Darfur region finally ends - or when all of the remaining inhabitants are dead or gone to another country - a count will be in order.

Count the number of times the Sudanese government has said it would work to end the genocide and then has broken that pledge.

Make sure to include President Omar al-Bashir's agreement this month to allow 3,000 peacekeepers and heavy equipment into Darfur to support the small African Union force there. It was followed by his rejection of a U.N. draft resolution written by the United States and Britain that talks about an international presence.

Because Bashir has reneged on earlier agreements, history also will count the death toll, which now stands at an estimated 200,000. It will count the 2.5 million refugees in Sudan and neighboring Chad who have fled the fighting between rebels and government-backed militias.

An honest review also will add up the number of times world leaders have said: "The time for serious action is now." That count will be high and include a recent uptick.

It's good that the United States has gotten more engaged since Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice named John Negroponte to be her deputy. He recently returned from a trip to Sudan, where he urged Khartoum to cooperate but has shown realistic skepticism about whether it will.

The United Nations has become more active, too, since Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon made Darfur a priority in his new position.

They all are saying the right thing: that Khartoum must stop supporting violence or risk more sanctions.

But let's say Bashir once again shuns the international community and norms of decency. Will history count one more instance of world powers shrugging and retreating?

Bashir and other Sudanese leaders are stubborn because they barely have been punished so far. Current U.N. sanctions are laughably weak.

This time, if Sudanese authorities stall, or block humanitarian aid shipments (as Bashir did again this week with 100,000 tons of sorghum), the reaction from the U.N. Security Council should be swift and harsh.

It should include an internationally administered no-fly zone over Darfur to prevent aerial attacks on civilians, and targeted financial sanctions on Bashir and other National Congress Party officials and their businesses.

The United States should persuade fellow Security Council member China to either stop protecting Khartoum or face a growing divestment movement in the United States that targets Chinese companies doing business with Sudan. That would be very bad publicity for Beijing as it prepares to host the 2008 Summer Olympics.

It's time for world leaders to play all of their cards. With genocide, good intentions just don't count.