- The Washington Times - Friday, October 26, 2001

Sudan 'not an enemy'
Sudanese Ambassador Khidir Haroun Ahmed is hopeful that the United States will soon remove his country from a blacklist of nations accused of supporting terrorism.
"Sudan is not an enemy of America," he told editors and reporters at The Washington Times this week. "We want America to help end the civil war."
Sudan has suffered from war since 1955, when the country was still under British control, the ambassador said.
A five-man U.S. delegation led by Charles Schneider, deputy secretary of state for African affairs, was due to arrive in the capital, Khartoum, yesterday to prepare for a visit by former Sen. John Danforth, a special envoy for peace in Sudan.
Mr. Ahmed said Sudan is encouraged by the visit and by the removal of U.N. sanctions last month. The United Nations imposed the measures in 1996 after Egyptian terrorists slipped into Sudan and tried to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who was on an official visit.
The State Department's terrorism report recognizes that Sudan has signed all 12 intentional conventions for combating terrorism and has taken "other positive counterterrorism steps, including closing down the Popular Arab and Islamic Conference, which served as a forum for terrorists."
However, Sudan remains on the list because it continues to be a "safe haven" for members of various terrorist groups, including "associates" of Osama bin Laden.
Mr. Ahmed noted that Sudan expelled bin Laden in 1996 after the United States requested he be kicked out of the country. He added that bin Laden liquidated all his assets in Sudan in 1997.
Mr. Ahmed also denied other charges that the majority-Muslim nation practices slavery and kills Christians and followers of traditional African religions.
Mr. Ahmed dismissed charges of slavery as a "distorted issue," although anti-slavery groups and western journalists have reported buying and freeing slaves.
The ambassador insisted that the Sudanese government does not condone slavery and the outside groups mistake tribal abductions for slavery.
"They raid each other," he said. "They have this unfortunate practice of abduction. It exists in areas where the government has the least control."
Mr. Ahmed also said the war between the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) is not a war between Muslims and Christians. He said millions of Christians have migrated from their homes in the southern part of the country to Khartoum in the Muslim-dominated north.
He also said the SPLA, which started as a Marxist group, is now espousing a Christian message, but its struggle is one for power, not liberation.
"We've been killing each other for 40 years with different kinds of slogans," Mr. Ahmed said.

Venezuelan credibility
Venezuela's image has been damaged in the United States by contradictory statements regarding the war on terrorism, U.S. Ambassador Donna Hrinak said yesterday.
"The country has paid a price in terms of credibility," Mrs. Hrinak told Venezuelan state television in Caracas.The ambassador said Washington believes Venezuela supports the U.S. war on terrorism, but remains concerned by criticism from two top government ministers.
"We are now convinced of Venezuela's support for the multinational coalition [against terrorism]," Mrs. Hrinak said. "I think the current position is clear."
After the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan began Oct. 7, however, Defense Minister Jose Vicente Rangel said, "The alternative to terrorism should not must not be war."
Interior Minister Luis Miquilena added that he had seen no proof that Osama bin Laden is responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had strongly denounced the attacks.
In Washington, the State Department called on Venezuelan Ambassador Ignacio Arcaya for a clarification.
"You have to realize the impact that these contradictions have had in the last two weeks on the credibility of the country," Mrs. Hrinak said in the television interview.


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