ON TUESDAY, the Sudanese government seemed to give advocates pushing for an end to the ongoing genocide in Darfur everything they have asked for, but nobody was celebrating. That's because activists and ambassadors are all too familiar with Khartoum's disgraceful modus operandi.
The United Nations has been struggling for nearly a year to persuade President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir to allow a hybrid U.N.-African Union force of up to 23,000 peacekeepers into Darfur to protect villagers from roving Arab militias that have led the slaughter of an estimated 200,000 people and the displacement of millions more. The pressure on Bashir has been mounting recently, with an announcement of tightened sanctions from President Bush, threats of sanctions from the United Nations and the election of a new French president who promises to make Darfur a priority.
Khartoum blinked on Tuesday; after two days of meetings in Ethiopia between Sudanese and African Union officials, Sudan agreed to accept the hybrid force. Yet rather than cheer, Darfur watchers mostly reacted with a yawn. Bashir is a master at sidestepping international sanctions by pretending to accede to U.N. demands, then setting up bureaucratic roadblocks. Efforts to reinforce the 7,000 African Union troops already in Darfur have been blocked by refusals to grant visas or "complications" in customs. And when Khartoum runs out of ways to gum up the works, it simply backtracks on its agreements, as it did after initially accepting the full U.N. deployment in November.