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Cablegate: Sudan Reacts to Republication of Danish Cartoons with Mass

VZCZCXRO9782
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0293 0591357
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 281357Z FEB 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0061
INFO RUEHCP/AMEMBASSY COPENHAGEN 0003
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 000293

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, EUR/NB, DS/IP/AF AND DS/IP/ITA

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KISL PGOV PREL ETRD EAID SOCI ASEC SU DA
SUBJECT: SUDAN REACTS TO REPUBLICATION OF DANISH CARTOONS WITH MASS
RALLY, TRADE BOYCOTT


1. (SBU) Summary: Addressing a mass rally in Khartoum organized by
government-affiliated Islamic organizations, President Bashir
denounced cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed that were recently
republished in Danish newspapers. An embargo on Danish trade and
travel has been reported in the press, but Denmark's mission in
Khartoum has not so far been notified of any such actions. End
Summary.

President Bashir Addresses Demonstrators
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
2. (U) Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir on February 27 addressed a
crowd reliably estimated at 15,000 to 20,000 (pro-government
newspapers claimed turnout was over one million) at a peaceful mass
rally in Khartoum protesting "the cartoons insulting the Prophet
Mohammed (PBUH) which were reprinted by Danish newspapers." The
demonstration was called by the "Sudan Forum for Defending the
Prophet Mohammed," an organization closely affiliated with the
ruling National Congress Party (NCP). Protesters gathered at
Khartoum and El Neilan Universities and converged on the
Presidential Palace, where leaders delivered a protest letter, and
Bashir and others addressed the crowd.

3. (U) According to press reports, Bashir told the crowd "We urge
all Muslims around the world to boycott Danish commodities, goods,
companies, institutions, organizations and personalities." He added
that "not a single Danish foot will from now on desecrate the land
of Sudan." The crowd responded with shouts of "Down, down Denmark!"
Expanding beyond the immediate issue of the Danish cartoons, Bashir
added "the blood of Muslims is shed and their honor violated in
Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia."

Trade Embargo Announced in the Press
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
4. (SBU) In addition to the February 27 demonstration, Sudan's
Government of National Unity (GNU) on February 26 announced a
prohibition on Danish imports into Sudan. The Director General of
Sudan's Customs Police is reported to have said that his agency is
very serious about implementing the decree. However, as of February
28, the Danish mission in Khartoum had received no official
notification of an embargo or any restrictions on travel by Danish
citizens.

Comment
- - - -
5. (SBU) Wednesday's march and rally were notable for their lack of
spontaneity. Given the Forum's ties to the NCP and GNU, a large
turnout was fully expected. (One cell phone company sent a canned
text message to all of its subscribers the night before, announcing
the "million man march.") The controversy over the cartoons
provides Sudan's generally unpopular government with an opportunity
to portray itself as the defender of a beleaguered Islamic faith,
under attack by a hostile West, and to divert attention from its own
behavior in Darfur and elsewhere. We have seen little indication of
independent popular outrage. Denmark's trade with Sudan is minimal,
but Sudan (especially Darfur) is a significant recipient of Danish
humanitarian assistance. Danish NGO's are active, and Danes work in
various international organizations present in Sudan. How the GNU's
announced embargo (if it is actually to be enforced) will affect
their operations is not yet clear.

FERNANDEZ

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