Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 2 September 2003

President Isayas accuses Sudan of embracing "terrorist groups"

Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki has accused Sudan of embracing "terrorist groups". The following is excerpt from an interview he gave to the Lebanese-based New-Sat TV station on Wednesday 27 August, as published in Tigrinya by Eritrean ruling PFDJ party’s www.Shaebia.org on 31 August; subheadings inserted editorially

New Sat TV US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld praised Eritrea’s cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Another senior US official also said assistance to Eritrea to fight terrorism will follow a military cooperation. During his visit in Eritrea, the former commander of the US Central Command, Tommy Franks, was promised by Eritrean Defence Minister Sebhat Ephrem that Eritrea will allow the US to set up a military base in the country. He then made a visit to US.

President Isayas Never! This is a continuation of the unfounded rumours making the rounds. It is true that Rumsfeld had visited Eritrea. Even Tommy Franks came about four time to Eritrea. The relations between Eritrea and the US are based on mutual interests of the two countries. Our struggle against terrorism started even before our independence because some regional political forces had targeted us, and we struggled to protect our national interest and preserve our existence as people. This struggle also continued for over 14 years. Soon after these events, the incident of 11 September took centre stage and the whole issue took a new twist.

Hence the US took the lead in the fight against terrorism. Our relations with the US or any other country in the fight against terrorism are based on our national interest. Our fight against terrorism is based on our national interests. We are doing it to get assistance from the US or others. We started fighting terrorism and beat it long ago before the US. This is done in the best interest of our country.

New Sat TV Your Excellency, as I see it, you are using two languages. One language is directed towards the US and its fight against terrorism while the other is directed towards your masses aimed at showing them that you have preserved the dignity of your country.

President Isayas Never! There is nothing we use to run away. First of all, there is nothing that we exaggerate or take advantage of the incident in the US or any other country. Our policies are based on the best interest of our country. It is a known fact that we have the freedom to make our own decisions. [....]

New Sat TV It is said that the Eritrean government continues its hostilities against Sudan. What is your answer?

Sudan embraced terrorist groups

President Isayas Perhaps these are baseless lies being disseminated by some Sudanese government officials. These lies do not even reflect realities or serve the interests of Sudan. The problem of Sudan is an internal affair of the country itself. The main problem is the that the regime that took power in 1989 by a military coup declared war against the Sudanese people by introducing a new ideology. That was not enough. The regime declared war against neighbouring countries, resorted to assassination attempts and pursued a policy of embracing terrorist groups. When the problem persisted, we sought to resolve the problem bilaterally, but we did not succeed and thus we severed our diplomatic relations with the Sudanese regime in 1994. [....]

New Sat TV Your Excellency, before concluding our interview, it will be good to review global developments, particularly the US presence in Iraq and the crisis into which it is entering. What is your position on the foreign policy being pursued by President Bush, especially on the American invasion of Iraq? Do you agree? Do you agree with the policy of toppling and changing of regimes?

Saddam’s "illegal" acts invited Americans

President Isayas We should to have a general opinion on this issue. I, personally, am of the opinion that had the Saddam Husayn regime pursued a policy that would have served the Iraqi people and the region, all these crises would not have happened. The war he launched against Iran was not justifiable in any way. Destructive actions were taken against the Iraqi people and instability prevailed in the region. Later on he invaded Kuwait. The was no any political or legitimate reason for the invasion. All these destroyed Iraq. It is Saddam himself who invited the Americans through his illegal acts over the past more than 20 years. Iraq does not deserve all these. It is a rich country. It was a country which could have been a regional power and play a positive role for the development of the region. [....]

Iraqi administration council

New Sat TV Do you endorse the administration council set up in Iraq? Some Arab countries have supported it. Some of them supported, openly or secretly, the American invasion against Iraq. Do you support a council set up under occupation?

President Isayas First of all, we should be able to look into things generally from their historical point of view. We should not dismantle events. We should also not enter into details that have nothing to do with the issue. The crisis the Saddam regime created in the region are obvious. Is the intervention by American and Britain justifiable? Is the council legitimate? One should be able to see and analyse the issues collectively. What we would like to see is a stable and prosperous Iraq that would play a positive role for the development of the region.

New Sat TV Can the American policy bring about peace for the Iraqi people?

President Isayas For 30 years not the Iraqi have not been given the opportunity to make a decision which serves their interests. They are instead encountering crisis after a crisis. This is not the right moment for us judge about what is going on in Iraq now. We should wait and see the developments patiently and then we can be able to talk whether or not the Iraqi people are governing themselves. [....]