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Cablegate: Media Reaction: Al-Wasila Visit to Washington


DE RUEHKH #1387 2471058
P 041058Z SEP 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) SUMMARY: The Sudanese press closely reported on the August
27-30 visit to Washington by Sudan's State Minister at the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs, Samani Al-Wasila. Claiming that this visit was
the first of its kind in over a decade, most papers included a daily
update of every stage of the visit. Several papers speculated that
Wasila's visit would eventually lead to, if not immediately result
in, the lifting of U.S. sanctions on Sudan, the release of Sudanese
detainees in Guantanamo (including Al-Jazeera cameraman Sami
Al-Haj), and Sudan's removal from the list of state sponsors of
terror. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) On August 25, the Sudanese press reported that Al-Wasila had
departed to Washington. "Al-Wan," a newspaper affiliated with the
Popular Congress Party, reported that preparations for the visit
were ongoing for the last month and that there was an atmosphere of
cautious optimism surrounding this visit.

3. (U) On August 29, "Al-Sahafa" reported that Wasila discussed a
number of issues including U.S.-Sudanese bilateral relations, the
situation in Darfur, and Sudanese citizens detained in Guantanamo.
Wasila reportedly warned U.S. officials that a number of countries
want to divide Sudan. He said "if there is any group in the United
States or anywhere else that wants to divide Sudan, we tell them
that it is going to be a difficult mission because the division of
Sudan will lead to the division of 56 other African countries."

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4. (U) On August 30, the opening story in the independent
"Al-Sudani" stated that the Government of Sudan expressed its
optimism about the delegation's visit, and its hope for a
breakthrough in bilateral relations. MFA official spokesman Ali
Al-Saddiq stated that differences between Sudan and Washington go
back to the beginning of the 1980's, and that the global environment
has changed greatly since then. Al-Saddiq added that U.S. economic
sanctions and the listing of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism
are the main factors that contributed to the deterioration of
bilateral relations. He voiced skepticism towards U.S. promises,
saying "they promise, but do not fulfill their promises." He added
that the Government of Sudan will not grant any concessions to the
U.S., and stated that the time for directing relations through the
media has passed.

5. (U) "Al-Sudani" also presented two "expert opinions." Dr.
Ibrahim Mirghani, dean of the faculty of Strategic Studies and
Political Sciences at Al-Azhari University, ruled out the
possibility of a dramatic improvement in Sudanese-American
relations. He alleged that every time the Government of Sudan tries
to normalize its relations, the U.S. imposes new conditions on
Sudan. Conversely, political analyst Yousif Al-Sayed stated that he
expects a breakthrough in relations between the two countries.
However, he stated that U.S. foreign policy is influenced by the
"Zionist lobby" which directs the American government to "issue
decisions against the Government of Sudan."

6. (U) On September 2, the pro-government "Al-Rai Al-Aam gave
prominent coverage to Wasila's visit with the following three
headlines: "Washington thanks the [Sudanese] government for
dismantling extremist groups;" "Natsios will visit Khartoum in the
coming days;" and "The U.S. moves toward lifting Sudan from the list
of [state sponsors] of terrorism." According to the daily,
"Credible sources in Washington stated that George W. Bush has begun
to seriously consider lifting economic sanctions on Sudan after the
deployment of UN troops to Darfur this coming October." It went on
to state that Washington has granted permission to let the Sudanese
Charge' d'Affaires in Washington, John Leuth Ukec, visit two
Sudanese detainees in Guantanamo, and that two of the nine detainees
will soon be released.

7. (U) The article in "Al-Rai Al-Aam" further reported that Wasila
found his meetings "honest, positive, and beneficial." He added
that "[This visit] will reflect positively on the relationship
between the two countries." Wasila also stated that the talks
"touched upon all lingering issues between the two countries." The
daily cited "credible sources" as saying that Washington was
specifically interested in construction on the new U.S. Embassy in
Khartoum, and conveyed that it is annoyed that Sudanese authorities
have obstructed containers of building material from entering Sudan.

8. (U) COMMENT. The Sudanese media's focus on Wasila's visit
revealed many unrealistic expectations. Many reports and
commentaries expected nothing less than the release of detainees,
the lifting of sanctions, and the removal of Sudan from the list of
state sponsors of terrorism. We continue to try to manage
expectations and respond where necessary to outright distortions of
the truth. END COMMENT.


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