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Obama's hard line on Sudan: Will it also be hardball?

The future of Africa's largest country, including Darfur, depends on the president's willingness to twist arms.

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As he takes his time to figure out the US role in the Afghanistan conflict, President Obama has been forced to take a stand on another conflict – or rather two conflicts – in Sudan.

This state, the largest in Africa, will receive tough diplomacy from the US, based on a White House policy issued Monday, while also being given incentives for any progress on key issues.

This firm but still flexible stance is welcomed, but the policy leaves doubts as to how much Mr. Obama will use personal diplomacy and various types of pressure to solve one of the world's top crises – which has seen millions either killed or made homeless.

During the 2008 campaign, candidate Obama took a strong stand on confronting Sudan's repressive regime over the humanitarian tragedy in Darfur and the ongoing violence in oil-rich Southern Sudan, home to many Christians in a largely Islamic nation.

But since entering the Oval Office, he has let Sudan fall off his radar.

And meanwhile, his special envoy to the country, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, hinted at engaging the regime with small incentives that might seem to ignore past human rights atrocities – raising concerns in Congress and among activists on where Obama stood exactly.

Now Obama is clear once again that he wants the regime's leaders to be held accountable for some 300,000 deaths in Darfur – a mass killing that the Bush administration labeled as genocide. That stance by Obama will help back up the March indictment of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

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