Thursday, July 21, 2005

Sudan not making friends in US State Dept.

I see the new Sudanese government is no better than the old one in Diplomacy.

::::::::Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held a congratulatory round of meetings with officials of the new unified Sudanese government Thursday, but expressed outrage after security forces manhandled aides and reporters accompanying her.

"It makes me very angry to be sitting there with their president and have this happen," she said. "They have no right to push and shove."

Rice made her remarks to reporters after she and her entourage board an airplane to fly from the Sudanese capital to a refugee camp in the Darfour (search) region.

After landing near the camp, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the Sudanese foreign minister had responded to Rice's demand for an apology by telephoning her aboard the plane to say he was sorry for what had happened in Khartoum.

"Diplomacy 101 says you don't rough your guests up," Rice senior adviser Jim Wilkinson had said earlier as he and reporters were facing off with guards at the ultra-high-security residence of Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir (search).

The guards elbowed Americans and tried to rip a tape away from a U.S. reporter. At another point, Rice's interpreter and some other aides accompanying her were blocked at a gate.

Ambassador Khidair Haroun Ahmed (search), head of the Sudanese mission in Washington, attempted to smooth over the situation on the spot.

"Please accept our apologies," he told the reporters and aides. "This is not our policy."

Yes, I'm sure. I've already been made aware of Sudan's policies on a number of items. The most immediate reply to this "not our policy" statement came literally moments later as a US TV reporter asked President el-Bashir about his involvement in the atrocities so well reported in Sudan of late. His guards responded by grabbing the small woman and literally dragging her to the back of the room as members of Rice's staff yelled at them to release her. Certainly sounds like they're following normal policy to me if that's their immediate response to someone asking the Prez a question.

The really galling point is that the whole time they were there in Sudan, the Sudanese officials were pestering Rice to lift the sanctions being held against Sudan. I'm no diplomat but I have some advice for the Sudanese: if you want someone's help, you need to get seriously improved manners going. Put a leash on the guards who can't seem to do anything but rough people up and prove you're not the gang of thugs you've been looking like for the past few years. Then we can talk about lifting scantions.