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Cablegate: Media Reaction: Dawn of Se Williamson's Visit

VZCZCXRO6501
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0271 0561105
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 251105Z FEB 08 ZDK CTG RUEHFR 0428 0561340
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0028
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 000271

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, S/CRS, AF/PD, IIP/G/AF, RRU-AF, AF SE WILLIAMSON
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
NSC FOR PITTMAN AND HUDSON

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL KPAO OIIP SU
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: DAWN OF SE WILLIAMSON'S VISIT

REFTEL: 07 KHARTOUM 2065

1. (U) SUMMARY: There has been a storm of media interest in the
run-up to Special Envoy Williamson's visit to Sudan. Some papers
echo the cautiously optimistic attitude of the Sudanese government
that a positive outcome may result of the visit, while others cast
the trip as "more business as usual" in the bilateral relationship.
There is also particular interest in the timing of the Special
Envoy's visit coinciding with that of the Chinese Special Envoy on
Darfur. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) A press release by the Sudan News Agency (SUNA) on the visit
has been widely circulated in the local media since it was released
on February 22. According to the release, Foreign Minister Deng
Alor briefed President Bashir on his delegation's recent visit to
Washington, describing it as "positive" and "a step towards serious
dialogue" between Sudan and the United States. Deng said the two
sides were on the "right path" to resolve the following issues:
bilateral relations, Darfur, the implementation of the Comprehensive
Peace Agreement (CPA), and the problems faced by the Sudanese
Embassy in Washington and the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum. In
addition, he said that Sudan's listing on the State Sponsors of
Terrorism list was discussed, as was the issue of Sudanese prisoners
at Guantanamo.

3. (U) Adam Mohamed Adam, a columnist with the liberal Al-Sudani
daily, wrote on February 24 that the Special Envoy is "expected to
bring answers" to the problem issues between Sudan and the United
States. He described the Special Envoy as a seasoned diplomat who
has held important positions in the USG. Adam pointed out that the
Williamson played key roles as the Illinois Republican Party Chief
when the state was "rocked by a scandal during the tenure of
Governor George Ryan." Adams says this is good for Sudan as
Williamson was "a peacemaker in a divided and harsh climate." The
author speculated whether that the Special Envoy "will have all the
answers" or if he will instead "resign quickly."

4. (U) In the same Al-Sudani column, Adam also wrote that "some
analysts believe Williamson may not fare any different from Natsios"
because "they both receive their instructions from Washington."
Adam quoted Sudanese strategic studies expert Dr. Ibrahim Mirghani,
as saying "the Special Envoys fail in their mission not for lack of
initiative or ideas but because of Washington's unrelenting policies
on Sudan." Mirghani said President Bush ignored Sudan during his
recent Africa visit. He said that despite Charge d'Affaires
Fernandez's good intentions, relations between Sudan and the United
States "have worsened."

5. (U) Some newspapers have made an issue of the "the unprecedented
coincidence of visits" to Sudan by the U.S. and Chinese Special
Envoys. The pro-government, anti-West Al-Intibaha newspaper stated
that "the government will need to choose which Envoy it prefers to
interact with more positively." In a first page article, the
newspaper claims that "some Sudanese ministers have noted their
preference toward China" because "Sudan feels it has more to gain in
its relations with China than with the U.S." The paper also states
that "the issue of bilateral relations with the U.S." will
"certainly have a prominent position" in the government's
discussions with Special Envoy Williamson.

6. (U) An editorial article in Khartoum's Al-Ayaam newspaper
entitled "America and China meet today in Khartoum" was published on
February 24. The paper stated that both the U.S. and Chinese
Special Envoys are expected to arrive February 24. The editorial
stated that "while the two envoys may not hold direct talks" with
one another, they "do have a common interest - Darfur." The author
posited what the official Sudanese reaction to the visits might be
"in light of direct pressures from the U.S." and "indirect pressures
from China in the form of 'friendly advice.'"

7. (SBU) COMMENT: While the media's predictions for the outcome of
the Special Envoy's visit are mixed, on the whole they are decidedly
more optimistic in their assessments than they were in late December
2007 (see reftel).

FERNANDEZ

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