Leading article: It's never the wrong time to ask questions

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And when they are manhandled by local officials, as the US press corps were in Sudan yesterday for having the temerity to ask questions about Darfur, who should rush to their defence but the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. "It makes me very angry to be sitting with their president and have this happen," she declared, demanding an apology and adding, "They had no right to manhandle the press." What's more, she got the apology.

Can you imagine Jack Straw, our Foreign Secretary, being angry over a mere manhandling of the press, let alone demanding an apology? He'd be telling his hosts, "About time, they had it coming", while his official was passing notes to his opposite number suggesting that the hacks be herded into another room to await the official communiqué.

Given the way the US press is circling the White House over the naming of Valerie Plame, sniffing the blood of Karl Rove, there's many a Washington official who might prefer the British approach. But they would be wise to remember that what the journalists in Khartoum were trying to ask about, and their hosts were determined to stop them asking about, was Darfur. While the diplomats talk, and the world congratulates Sudan on its recent peace agreement in the south, 180,000 people have died and two million are homeless in this western region.

Ms Rice can see the purpose of journalists raising the unmentionable. Can Mr Straw?

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