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Cablegate: Media Reaction: Special Envoy Williamson in Sudan

VZCZCXRO1847
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0301 0621245
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 021245Z MAR 08 ZDK CTG NUMEROUS REQUESTS
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0080
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 000301

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: SPECIAL ENVOY WILLIAMSON IN SUDAN

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The media reaction to Special Envoy Williamson's
visit to Sudan was a rollercoaster ride, swinging wildly up and down
but ultimately ending up where it began. Mirroring the GOS's hopes
for the trip, the press coverage began as cautiously optimistic.
After the first day's impromptu press conference at the MFA, the
press heralded a "breakthrough" as the Foreign Minister announced
"normalization of relations" within "4-6 months." The next day,
however, State Department spokesman Tom Casey's remarks in
Washington quelled the media's discussion of the "timetable." Press
coverage in Khartoum waned as the Special Envoy visited Darfur and
the south. Over the weekend and this Sunday, as the Special Envoy
finished his trip back in Khartoum, media coverage returned to the
cautious optimism it had begun with. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) On February 26, the media's optimism surrounding Foreign
Minister Deng Alor's comments about "normalization of relations"
between the U.S. and Sudan ruled the airwaves and newspaper
headlines. Most of the local Arabic papers in Khartoum, including
Al-Sahafa, Al-Sudani, and Al-Rai Al-Aam, zeroed in on Alor's
statements, announcing "a return of a U.S. ambassador, the lifting
of... sanctions imposed on Sudan, and the clearing of Sudan from the
State list of terror sponsors."

3. (U) Of particular note, however, was a column by Baha'el-deen
Eisa, a respected senior reporter at the liberal Al-Sudani daily,
who was somewhat prescient in pointing out that neither the Foreign
Minister nor the Special Envoy had elaborated on exactly what steps
were to be taken in bringing about "normal relations."

4. (U) February 27 brought forward accusations that the U.S. was
"reneging on its promise" of normalization after State Department
spokesman Tom Casey's remarks contradicted those of the Sudanese
Foreign Minister. The press reaction, mirroring the government's,
turned decidedly more negative. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ali
Al-Saddiq was quoted by several papers as saying "the Special Envoy
does not carry with him a 'special wand' that will resolve all the
crises." In addition, Manahil Hammad, a commentator for the
virulently anti-U.S. newspaper Al-Intibaha, dwelled on the low
points of U.S.-Sudanese relations while Hamza Baloul, a columnist
for the Al-Ahdath dahly newspaper, took ao e#onomic"jab,$uggastingm
thcQ Sud~ cct\dabeatmi2e rmedItQdgm apeQtutpip(pQ8BXgiQQ(i.8}Qy}`DeQ2laeNQQ2"Q@0F ~dmB8cK\o1Hs(5Q6eQQQdF}|0vQQ^QQ)yQ{~uh5opflQM arch 1, and March 2 were relatively quiet in
their reporting of the Special Envoy's visit, with most papers
skipping editorial commentary. Of note, however, was an opinion
piece by Ayub Mohamed Abbas in the ordinarily anti-U.S. Akhir Lahza
daily newspaper, in which the writer reflected positively on the
Special Envoy's visit. Saying it "represented a shift in U.S.
policies" and that "the Special Envoy seemed keen to contribute to
efforts to realize peace in Darfur," Abbas put forward support for
"the political process" and recognized Williamson's focus on
"pushing for the full deployment of the a hybrid force."

FERNANDEZ

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