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memri
April 9, 2008 No.
1847

Editor of Sudanese Daily Calls to Improve Relations with U.S.

The editor of the Sudanese daily Al-Sudani, Mahjoub 'Urwah, called, in the paper's January 28, 2008 editorial, for improved diplomatic relations with the U.S., following the recent escalation in tensions between the two countries. These tensions result from the U.S.'s economic sanctions on Sudan in response to the genocide in Darfur, and from the resignation of U.S Special Envoy to Sudan Andrew Natsios over the non-implementation of the peace agreement between the north and south of the country. Also contributing to the tension is Sudan's anti-U.S. policy, as manifested by its decision to switch to the Euro for its foreign transactions, and by attempts to delay the construction of the new U.S. Embassy compound in Khartoum.

The following are excerpts from the editorial: [1]

Sudan-U.S. Relations Must Be Sound, Even If They Are Not Very Warm

"...U.S. Ambassador to Sudan Mr. Alberto Fernandez made a welcome visit to the [offices of] our newspaper... Happily, his visit coincided with the statement by the Sudanese foreign minister... warning the ambassador not to interfere in our country's affairs. [2] As our readers have probably noticed, [our newspaper] has been trying to mend the rift in U.S.-Sudan relations, and to emphasize the positive aspects [of the relations between the two countries]... in the belief that these relations must be sound, even if they are not very warm.

"We can attest that many positive features are shared by the Sudanese and American people; many American diplomats who served in Sudan have acknowledged this. One former American ambassador used to go jogging in the streets of Khartoum in complete confidence and safety. Many American diplomats had friendly ties with numerous Sudanese. Moreover, some of them, thanks to these ties, gained a profound understanding of the genuine popular Islam that is prevalent in Sudan - and a few even converted to Islam. I have a personal friend, an American diplomat, who converted and married a Sudanese woman. His wife told me that he fasts every Monday and Thursday. Perhaps it was thanks to [this devoutness] that he miraculously escaped certain death a few years ago, during his service in Kenya, when extremists bombed the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. Sudanese-American cooperation is perhaps also the reason that hundreds of Sudanese are attracted to live and work in the U.S.

"America is the land of liberties and of economic freedom. It is not innocent of the wanton [crimes] perpetrated by fundamentalist Christians, by the Zionist and racist lobbies, and by capitalists whose only desire is to make an illegitimate fortune by selling arms, [including] WMDs, all over the world. But we know that in all nations there are good people and bad people, and the role of the former is to restrain the latter. To this end, they must cooperate in any way they can [with the good people in other countries]."

TheU.S. has Extended Considerable Aid to Sudan Since the 50s

"Perhaps people remember how much [help] the U.S. has extended to Sudan since the 1950s - both [economic] aid and other [kinds of assistance]. It is a well-known fact that President Kennedy... offered generous aid to [Sudanese ruler] General 'Aboud, [which eventually was never granted] due to internal conflicts [in Sudan], and owing to the pressure of the Sudanese Communists. Kennedy wanted to turn Sudan into a model of advancement in Africa... but unfortunately, the Cold War [prevented this from happening].

"Perhaps some remember the satellite dishes [that the U.S. planned to install in Sudan] during the era of Muhammad 'Abd Al-Jawad, [communications minister in General 'Aboud's government]. We were told that they were intended to serve as an espionage base, just as we were told that the road between Port-Sudan and Khartoum, [which the U.S. planned to build] was meant to serve as an airstrip for American planes on their way to bomb Vietnam.

"Admittedly, [all] this is ancient history, but in more recent times, [one might mention] the Naivasha Agreement, [3] which put an end to the bloodshed. We all know the part that America played in [achieving] it. Even if some say that [the Americans] did this to promote their own interests - why shouldn't we gain benefit from these interests, for the good of both peoples? It is well known that, among scholars and politicians, those who are most [violently] anti-American are either communists or Islamists. But surprisingly, many of these received their university education in the U.S., and were granted political asylum there, over the past 20 years.

"So why should we not take a statesman-like approach to the issue of international relations? Why repeat the mistakes of the 1960s? International relations are based on interests - some good and some bad, some benign and some harmful. Let us focus on the good and the positive, instead of bandying about empty slogans. Slogans like 'anyone who maintains ties with America is a spy and a reactionary,' and 'anyone who maintains ties with Russia is revolutionary and progressive' are dead. [As stated in the Koran, 3:64:] 'Oh People of the Book [i.e. Christians and Jews]! [Let us] come to an agreement between us and you.'"


[1] Al-Sudani (Sudan), January 28, 2008.

[2] In a January 24, 2008 interview with Reuters, Fernandez said that the lack of trust felt by the southern Sudanese and by the rebels in Darfur towards the Sudanese government was preventing the sides from reaching a peace agreement in Darfur. In response, Sudan's foreign ministry summoned Fernandez for reprimand. (http://www.thememriblog.org/blog_personal/en/4866.htm ) According to some reports, the Sudanese government also considered declaring him persona non grata in Sudan (www.sudantribune.com, January 26, 2008).

[3] The comprehensive peace agreement between the Sudanese government and the rebels of the South, signed in Naivasha, Kenya in 2005.