Home | News    Wednesday 29 April 2009

Sudanese president hints at souring relations with Egypt, hails Hezbollah

April 28, 2009 (CAIRO) – The Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir made surprising remarks downplaying the strength of his country’s relations with Egypt and said that Libyan weapons find their way to Darfur rebel groups.

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File photo showing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, right, meeting with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir at the Presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009 (AP)

Egypt was the second country among half a dozen states to receive Bashir since the warrant for his arrest was issued on March 4th by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of war crimes in Darfur.

In an interview with Egyptian independent newspaper Al-Shurooq published today Bashir was asked whether his attendance of Qatar hosted summit on Gaza despite Cairo’s boycott impacted relations.

“The relations with Egypt are neither cold nor warm but nonetheless they are positive. The understanding and mutual understanding is in place between the two countries and this is the most important thing” Bashir responded.

“Sudan was the first to call for a summit when the aggression against Gaza took place and I phoned [Syrian] president Bashar Al-Assad for that purpose. So when Qatar offered to host the summit we were in the front of those who accepted it” he added.

The summit held to discuss the Israeli assault on Gaza strip was boycotted by Arab heavyweight including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmood Abbas.

Egypt views Qatar as a country promoting and supporting militant groups including Hamas movement which controls the Gaza strip. Furthermore Cairo sees Qatar’s growing prominence as a challenge to its status as a regional power.

Qatar helped broker goodwill agreement between the Sudanese government and Darfur Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) last February pledging to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the Darfur conflict.

The Sudanese president took another hit at Cairo when he suggested that the accusations against Lebanese group Hezbollah of planning attacks in Egypt are overblown.

“We trust Hezbollah and its leadership and we consider them a genuine resistance group deserving respect and honor” he said.

“We know that they [Hezbollah] have never carried out activities against Arab or non-Arab countries. We hope to contain the crisis as soon as possible so that attention is not diverted from Israel which is the main enemy” Bashir added.

Since the uncovering of the plot by Cairo, Egyptian state media and political figures launched an intense media campaign against Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah going as far calling him a “monkey sheikh”.

The Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak last week issued a subtle warning to Hezbollah and its suspected allies Iran saying that he would not tolerate “the intervention of regional powers that are hostile to peace and that aim to drag the region into the abyss”.

It is not clear what prompted Bashir’s remarks at a time when Egypt was seen to be one of his main supporters in the row with the ICC. The Sudanese head of state was reportedly scheduled to visit Cairo last week.

Khartoum has rejected an Egyptian proposal for an international conference on Darfur saying this will internationalize the issues. Cairo has though to reassure their southern neighbors about their initiative but with little success.

In the interview Bashir disclosed that they arms used by Darfur rebels were found to be of Libyan origin.

“They [rebels] get their weapons from Chad because of tribal ties and Chad gets theirs from Libya. We spoke to the Libyans in this regard and their response was that they give weapons to Chadian government and not to the rebels” he said.

Sudan and Chad have long accused each other of supporting the opposition rebel groups to oust their regimes.

The Sudanese state reiterated his position on the aid agencies Khartoum expelled last month saying they have “strong” evidence of “conspiring” and working for Zionist circles.

SOUTH LIKELY TO VOTE FOR UNITY

On the issue of the South Bashir denied that moving elections date from July 2009 to February 2010 is related to fears of the upcoming referendum in 2011 in which the south will choose whether to remain part of united Sudan or secede.

“The delay was caused by the fact that the preparations for elections in constituencies were not completed. Also the census results did not satisfy the Government of South Sudan which insist that the percentage be 33% but the scanning administered by Southern states showed that they are only 21%” he said.

The results of the fifth census has not been formally announced but reports leaked said that the population of the South came out to be 8.2 million out of 39 million.

Furthermore, the number of displaced Southerners in North Sudan has been reported as 500,000. This figure was disputed by Southern officials.

The fifth Sudan Population and Housing Census, a milestone in the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was conducted from 22nd to 30th April 2008. It was the first all inclusive census for people of southern Sudan since the country’s independence in January 1956.

The census will help decide how wealth and power are ought to be shared in Sudan.

“We are not worried about the referendum results which we accepted to resort to and so far there are 40% of Southerners want to stay as part of the united state. This percentage is increasing particularly in light of conflicts between Southern tribes some of which refuse to accept the SPLM. These conflicts did not stop in the last few years” Bashir said.

The Sudanese president referred to the violence that erupted in Jonglei state that led to the death of 170 people and displacement of thousands.

Some observers have pointed out that security challenges in the South may prevent conducting the national elections in February 2010 and the 2011 referendum subsequently.

The South insists that the referendum process be held as scheduled in 2011.

(ST)