Wednesday, October 22, 2014

News Item of 9/16/2003

News Item

KHARTOUM, Sudan, Nov 16, 2003 (AP) -- The U.S. Embassy reopened Sunday after a temporary closure due to terrorism threats against American interests in Sudan.
A brief statement from the embassy said officials were conducting a "constant review" of the security situation to determine if it may be necessary to close the embassy again.
The embassy has been closed since Tuesday following what was called "a credible and specific threat" to U.S. interests in the capital. U.S. and Sudanese officials did not give details on the nature of the threat.
On Friday, the U.S. State Department alerted Americans to terror threats in Sudan and told them to avoid travel to the northeastern Africa country.
Although Sudan remains on the United States list of terror-sponsoring states, Washington has applauded Khartoum's efforts to combat terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and said it would review its sanctions once the government signs a final peace accord with the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army.
Peace talks are to resume in early December on ending civil war that began in 1983 when rebels from the mainly animist and Christian south took up arms against the predominantly Arab and Muslim north. More than 2 million people have been killed in the war, mainly through war-induced drought.
Sudan hosted al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in the 1990s and the region has been cited as a possible haven for terrorists.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

News Article by AFP posted on November 11, 2003

News Article by AFP posted on November 11, 2003 at 14:13:00: EST (-5 GMT)*

Sudanese insist foreigners safe in Sudan despite US embassy closure
KHARTOUM, Nov 11 (AFP) -- Sudanese officials insisted Tuesday that their country remained safe for foreigners and they had heard of no threat against Americans here after the US embassy suspended operations for a week.
Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Mutref Siddeiq told Tuesday's edition of the official Al Anbaa daily that his government had no information about a threat against the US embassy in Khartoum.
"There is no threat to the American interests in Sudan," he said.
He added, however, that the security services "are vigilant in protecting foreigners in Sudan."
At least six policemen stood outside the embassy Tuesday in the western part of Khartoum, compared to one or two who are usually posted there, according to an AFP photographer.
The US embassy in Sudan said Monday it "will suspend normal operations as of November 12," noting it would also be closed on Tuesday for the Veterans' Day holiday in the United States.
"This action is the result of a credible and specific threat to US interests in Khartoum," an embassy statement said, without elaborating.
The mission also advised US nationals to be cautious and avoid gatherings of foreigners. A Sudanese source who asked not to be named said around 40 Americans live in Khartoum.
The US embassy is heavily fortified with strong walls and iron bars while a stretch of some 150 metres (yards) of the main Abdel Latif avenue is closed to all but pedestrians.
The fortifications were installed in the 1980s but the road was blocked off to traffic early this year.
In Cairo, visiting US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said Tuesday that the Sudanese authorities have been helpful.
The problem is "you have to be correct 100 percent of the time but the terrorists only have to be right once," he added.
"So we err perhaps on the side of caution but we made the decision we did. As I understand it from my telegrams this morning we're quite pleased what the Sudanese government has done in response," Armitage said.
In Khartoum, Kamal al-Obeid, the external relations secretary for the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), said meanwhile that "Sudan is a safe country where foreigners enjoy peace and security and are not subjected to any threat."
Obeid, quoted by the official SUNA news agency, called upon the US administration to "reconsider its policies in the region so that the American citizen feels safe."
The Khartoum embassy closure coincided with the shutting of the US mission in Riyadh, only hours before a car bomb attack in the Saudi capital killed 17 people.
The Riyadh attack was blamed on the al-Qaeda terror network.
Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir's government has been trying to shed its Islamic militant image and improve relations with Washington, which since 1993 has maintained Khartoum on a list of states alleged to support terrorism.
But there is deep hostility in Khartoum and other Arab capitals towards the US occupation of Iraq and Washington's support for Israel in the conflict with the Palestinians.

*Note:  The Embassy released the notice that follows after the senior leadership considered information suggesting there was a pending bomb threat to US facilities.  We also discovered that an outside sewer might allow underground access to our building.
Press Release

The United States Embassy in Khartoum will suspend normal operations as of November 12. (The Embassy will be closed on November 11 for the national holiday of Veterans Day.) This action is the result of a credible and specific threat to US interests in Khartoum. We urge all US citizens in Sudan to exercise extra caution and to avoid gatherings of foreigners that may attract outside attention. The Embassy hopes to be able to resume normal operations next week.

The United States Embassy in Khartoum also wishes to express its appreciation for the strong support provided by the Sudanese authorities in confronting the present threat.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Journal Entry for October 30, 2003

Went to a reception at the Turkish ambassador's residence last evening. There was the usual crowd of diplomats scanning the crowd for targets and then swooping in for a quick info pump. The British ambassador and myself did our info exchange up front and then went off in our own directions. Since everyone thinks the U.S. knows everything, everyone wants to pump me. That's okay, that's what we do. Someone said they recognized me from the picture that appeared in the paper on Monday (part of a long interview I did). The publisher of the newspaper and I chatted. He said he got lots of favorable comment on my interview, especially the part where I said if the Sudanese talked more about the important issues, we foreigners could shut up.

I try to talk to actual Sudanese at these things. They are usually there. Spoke to a businessman. He wanted to know why the U.S. still has sanctions on Sudan. He said that business and investment do more to change things than sanctions. I said that I agreed and hoped we could remove them sometime next year. I also met the Indian ambassador's wife. She looked like an Indian movie star.

On the way home, the crescent moon hung low in the sky over the Blue Nile. The month of Ramadan starts with the first sign of the new moon and ends when the last of the old moon disappears. Struck me how the Arabs of the deep desert could look up every night and tell exactly what part of the month they were in even if they didn't have clocks or calendars. Many of the Muslim holy days go way back into the Arab past. I'm beginning to get a feel for the flow of life when you live as much in the cool night as the brutally hot sun. There is something there vaguely familiar, maybe from the Arabian Nights.