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Cablegate: Eritrean Opposition Leader Concerned About Refugees In

VZCZCXYZ0026
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKH #1874 3331320
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 291320Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9349

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 001874

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, S/E NATSIOS
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR, AND ALSO PASS USAID

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR PREF SU
SUBJECT: ERITREAN OPPOSITION LEADER CONCERNED ABOUT REFUGEES IN
SUDAN RETURNING TO WAR

REF: KHARTOUM 1872

1. (U) In a meeting with EconOff November 29, the chairman of the
Eritrean Nahda Party, Noor M. Idris, claimed that hundreds of
Eritrean refugees arrive in Sudan every day from Eritrea and
Ethiopia, and estimated that there are over 200,000 Eritreans living
in Sudan. Idris expressed concern for the welfare of these
Eritreans, and claimed that in October Sudan forcibly returned 69
refugees to Eritrea, two of which were shot and killed by Eritrean
soldiers on the border. Idris predicted that tensions will rise
between Ethiopia and Eritrea in the coming weeks and claimed that
120,000 Eritrean troops have already deployed to the Ethiopian
border. (Note: There were reports last week that 900 Eritrean
soldiers came over the border into Sudan to escape fighting with
Ethiopian troops. End Note.) Idris called on the U.S. to "start
contingency planning for the likelihood that war will start again
between Sudan's neighbors."

2. (SBU) Idris told EconOff he is actively working to bring about
political change in Eritrea and to unify opposition parties. He
stated that his organization will stage a conference for opposition
movements in December and the "Eritrean National Dialogue Congress"
scheduled for March, both to be held in Addis Ababa. Idris called
Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki a ruthless dictator with direct
ties to Islamic terrorists, and said that he hopes to see
significant political change in Asmara over the next year.

3. (SBU) Idris called the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement a "a piece
of junk," and claimed that Eritrea is working to undermine the
agreement and create chaos in the eastern Sudanese states of Red
Sea, Kassala, and Gedaref. Idris's colleague, Awel Kheir, the Vice
Chairman of the Eritrean Nahda Party, claimed that there is a
division between the leaders of the Eastern Front, and predicted
that the president of the Eastern Front, Musa Mohamed Ahmed, will
soon resign from his position as assistant to President Omar
Al-Bashir.

4. (SBU) Idris claims to have American, Eritrean, and Ethiopian
citizenship. Idris last contacted Embassy Khartoum in May, 2007 to
use consular services and to discuss the Nahda party. He said he
has not returned to the U.S. since May, working since then in Addis
Ababa. He claimed to be in regular contact with U.S. officials in
Addis Ababa, the United Nations and NGO officials, and Ethiopian
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Idris delivered a "memo to the
government of the United States of America" to EconOff. This
information has been forwarded to AF/SPG.

5. (SBU) COMMENT: Idris appeared to us an unseasoned, and slightly
desperate, activist-politician with unrealistic expectations about
what the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum could do for his movement.
Although some of his concerns may be valid, his unbalanced,
unsubstantiated, and often emotional presentation led us to doubt
much of what he said. However it bears reporting because he appears
well connected to the Eritrean community in Sudan and Addis and
obviously is itching to find a way to undermine the regime in
Asmara. END COMMENT

FERNANDEZ

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