'Innocent Sudan' exploits Carlos case

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The Independent Online
A YEAR after Sudan was put on the US State Department's list of states sponsoring terrorism, it is still waiting for evidence from Washington of wrongdoing, according to officials in Khartoum.

The Islamic government in Sudan is intensifying its campaign to exploit its extradition of Carlos, the international terrorist, to get it struck off the terrorism list. The normally reticent head of the military junta, President Omar el Bashir, has granted interviews to French television denying Sudan's sponsorship of terrorism. Other officials have wasted no opportunity to excoriate the US for what they call its unfair treatment.

Last August the US Secretary of State put Sudan on the list of states sponsoring terrorism on the grounds that it was 'harbouring international terrorist groups' including the Lebanese Hizbollah and the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Intelligence assessments reckon that these groups are allowed to live and study and perhaps to plot in apartments in the capital. They say that reports of Iranian revolutionary guards running training camps for Islamic groups are without foundation.

'Terrorism is contrary to our beliefs and our traditions,' the director general of the Foreign Ministry, Mahdi Ibrahim, said in an interview. 'We told the Americans: If you have any evidence, please give it to us. Unfortunately, they never did.'

By contrast, he said, the French had come with evidence that Carlos was in Khartoum, and the Sudanese had responded by picking him up. This caused embarrassment. 'Sending Carlos out is not an easy matter for a country like us. His people could engage in bombing or other acts against us.

'How can you prove a negative? We have always believed that in Western countries the defendant is innocent until proven guilty. In our case, it is not like that. Until today, no information has been provided about a terrorist harboured in our country.'

He would not be drawn on which Arab country had sent Carlos to Sudan. The official position is that it was a country that was trying to portray Sudan as a terrorist haven. This is coded language for Egypt. However, circumstantial evidence goes against this hypothesis since the Egyptians would not have had Carlos. If they had they would have claimed the credit for his capture.

The silence of the Sudanese suggests they were misled by a country with which they are friendly and enjoy good relations. The most plausible thesis is that the Syrians, themselves seeking to lose their reputation as a sponsor of terrorism, shipped Carlos to Sudan, telling the Sudanese a little but without identifying him exactly. The Sudanese are not addressing this point directly, preferring to portray themselves as victims of Western anti-Islamic hostility. Mahdi Ibrahim said said that Hizbollah was a legal party in Lebanon and had memebers of parliament who travel freely.