- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 10, 2002

'Hostile' peace act

The Sudanese ambassador yesterday accused the House of passing a "hostile, biased and religiously motivated" Sudan Peace Act that will "only prolong" the 19-year civil war in Africa's largest country.

Ambassador Khidir Haroun Ahmed said the act provides a $100-million incentive for rebels in southern Sudan to scuttle peace talks and threatens the government with sanctions if the talks fail, regardless of which side is to blame.

The act, passed Tuesday on a 358-8 vote, authorizes President Bush to distribute up to $100 million annually over the next three years to promote peace efforts in rebel-held areas. The bill also condemns the Muslim-led government for failing to stop the slave trade, even though the government says there is no slavery in areas it controls.

Rep. Spencer T. Bachus, Alabama Republican and the bill's sponsor, denounced the Sudanese government, calling it a "Hitler-like regime" that is responsible for genocide in the mainly animist and Christian south. More than 2 million people have died since 1983 when the conflict began.

Mr. Ahmed said the act only punishes the government.

"To compound matters, the rebels will be rewarded for torpedoing the talks by receiving annually $100 million from the American taxpayers if the talks fail," he said in a statement.

The ambassador said the bill reflects the Clinton administration's "failed and imbalanced policies that tragically resulted in missing critical opportunities of cooperation offered by the Sudan government in combating international terrorism long before the events of September 11."

Islam and tolerance

Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance, said Abdsattar hajji Derbisali, the supreme mufti of Kazakhstan, yesterday over a breakfast of fragrant black tea and dried apricots at the Kazakhstan Embassy.

"When I preach in the mosque, I preach on the humanity of our religion and the friendliness and accord we work for with all religions," said Mufti Derbisali, who is on a two-week tour of the United States to promote Kazakhstan's form of "moderate Islam."

Mufti Derbisali is the spiritual leader of Sunni Muslims in Kazakhstan, a nation of 15 million people, 70 percent of whom are Muslim. Most of the rest of the population is Russian Orthodox or Roman Catholic. There is freedom of religion in Kazakhstan, and the constitution specifies that Kazakhstan is a secular state. The United States considers Kazakhstan, despite concerns over the government's human rights record, an ally in the war on terrorism.

"When those horrible terrorist attacks happened last year in the United States, I issued a public statement that Islam and terror are not related. The attacks were committed by a group of people who disguised themselves with Islam. We condemn terrorism," he told our correspondent, Tom Carter.

Speaking in Russian through a translator, Mufti Derbisali said the Muslim women of Kazakhstan do not wear scarves or veils and there is no radical Islamic movement or Wahhabism in Kazakhstan. He said there were no angry anti-American editorials or letters to the editor from Muslims in Kazakh newspapers regarding U.S. foreign policy, as found in most Muslim nations.

He said Islam in Kazakhstan is tolerant of all religions, because unlike Afghanistan and Pakistan, "we have 100 percent literacy" and few "ignorant people."

Mufti Debisali declined to discuss the issue of Islamic suicide bombers, saying he is a religious leader, not a politician.

"We believe all people have the right to exist and should live in peace and should resolve their differences through negotiation, not terrorism," he said.

Praise for Blair

The House this week expressed its "sincere appreciation" of British Prime Minister Tony Blair for his "leadership in the war on terrorism."

The resolution also offered "deepest sympathy to the British victims of terrorism and their families," noting that 67 British subjects died in the September 11 terrorist attacks. It also commended the work of British intelligence and defense agencies. Mr. Blair has been the strongest European supporter of President Bush's policies on Iraq.

The measure passed on a 408-1 vote. The sole dissenting vote was cast by Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney, Georgia Democrat, who has blamed Jews for her defeat in last month's Democratic primary.

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