- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 23, 2001

U.S. officials are giving Sudan an Islamic nation that sheltered Osama bin Laden until 1996 high marks for cracking down on remnants of his al-Qaeda terror network following the recent attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
"There are anti-American groups that were still around and they have shut them down. We pointed them in a direction in a few cases to people we knew were still in the al-Qaeda network," a senior Bush administration official said.
Moreover, U.S. officials said Sudan has gone so far as to offer the United States military bases and overflight rights for anti-terror strikes.
"Before Sept. 11, we may have given them a C-plus in counterterrorism, but now they are close to getting an A," said one U.S. official familiar with recent joint activities.
Sudan sheltered bin Laden in the early 1990s, but kicked him out in 1996 and formally banned the al-Qaeda network.
Still, Sudan was targeted, along with Afghanistan, in U.S. retaliatory strikes following the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Like the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon, U.S. officials believe bin Laden was the mastermind of the embassy bombings that killed 224 persons.
Sudan remains on the U.S. list of terrorist nations and is widely condemned by human rights groups for allowing Christians and animists from the rebellious south to be bought and sold as slaves spoils of a civil war that has raged for years.
But at the moment, it is winning praise from U.S. officials and diplomats for its cooperation in the U.S.-led battle against terrorism.
Sudan's Intelligence Ministry has handed over the names and locations of individuals in the al-Qaeda network to CIA operatives on the ground in Sudan.
On Sept. 18, Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Othman Ismael said that CIA and FBI representatives have been operating in Khartoum as part of coordinated efforts between the two countries to combat terrorism.
Diplomats and U.S. officials also said Sudan has given Washington access to its banking system, something that will likely assist the United States in its efforts to choke off financial links to terror organizations.
Bin Laden had numerous assets in Sudan prior to his exile in 1996, including access to tanneries, and even the airport in Port Sudan in the north.
In an interview Friday, Sudan's ambassador in Washington, Khidir Haroun Ahmed, told UPI that U.S. operatives "have been given free access to different parts of the country."

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