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Will US Terror Attacks Affect Sudan Peace Effort? - 2001-09-18

The government of Sudan believes President George Bush will not let last week's attacks on New York and Washington derail his recent efforts to bring peace to Sudan. Relations between Sudan and the United States have improved greatly since 1998, when former President Bill Clinton ordered the bombing of Sudan in retaliation for terrorist attacks on its embassies in East Africa. When the United States was attacked last week, Sudan was quick to respond. It offered its condolences and promised to assist the United States in combating terrorism across the globe.

Sudan is determined to prevent a rerun of August 1998, when the United States bombed it in retaliation for terrorist attacks on its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The U.S. claimed that Osama bin Laden, a prime suspect in last week's terrorist attacks was using a pharmaceutical factory outside the capital, Khartoum, to prepare chemical weapons.

Sudan is still on the United States' list of countries suspected of harboring terrorists. But Sudan is working to prove its innocence.

Ahmed Dirdeiry, Charge d'Affaires for the Sudanese government in Nairobi, says his government is doing its best to prove to the United States that it is not providing bases for terrorists.

"We have started a process with the United States intending to remove Sudan from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism. We have indicated our willingness to co-operate with the law enforcing agencies of the United States. And I think they are having a sizeable presence in Sudan," Mr. Dirdeiry said. " And I think they are quite sure for quite a time that Sudan is really not harboring any terrorists and not sponsoring any terrorism and is really ready to assist in the international efforts of combating terrorism."

Mr. Dirdeiry adds that the United States policy has changed dramatically under President George Bush. He says the new administration is making a real effort to help bring an end to Sudan's 18 year civil war.

"The Clinton administration was taking sides, was a partisan to the conflict, but this new administration is really taking a more neutral stance and really thinking of assuming the role of a mediator," he said. "During the last two or three months, the United States has shown for the first time an interest to really assist the needy on both sides of the conflict. We understood from the visit of [Agency for International Development] chief Andrew Natsios to northern Sudan that the new administration is really going to be even handed when it comes to the Sudanese conflict."

President Bush has stepped up humanitarian aid to Sudan. He has also appointed former Senator John Danforth as a special mediator to help with peace negotiations.