Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sudan Bans Imports of Danish Goods in Response to Cartoon Reprint

KHARTOUM, Sudan 26 February 2008 Sapa-AP


Sudan has banned imports of Danish goods in retaliation for the reprint in Denmark of a cartoon that satirized Islam's Prophet Muhammad, the state-run news agency said Tuesday.

The move came as Sudan braced for large anti-Danish protest in the Sudanese capital on Wednesday that appear to have the tacit approval of the central government in Khartoum.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir announced earlier this week a plan to ban Danish imports, snub the country's officials and expel its organizations from Sudan in response to the cartoon reprinted this month by 17 Danish newspapers showing Prophet Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban.

"The Customs and Duty Authorities have promptly executed the ban on the import of Danish commodities," police customs chief, Gen. Salah Ahmed al-Sheikh, was quoted as saying by the official SUNA news agency. Al-Sheikh said the ban was effective immediately and warned Sudanese importers "to avoid trying to circumvent it."

Loudspeakers from Khartoum's main mosques blared after Tuesday midday prayers with calls saying "all people should come to the one-million march tomorrow in defense of the Prophet."

Sudanese officials did not specify whether the other measures
threatened by al-Bashir would be enforced.

"The decision of the President of the Republic has come after Danish authorities as well as Danish news media permitted the publication of cartoons and drawings that defame the Holy Prophet, peace and blessing of Allah be upon Him," said al-Simaih al-Sidiq, Sudan's state minister for Foreign Trade.

In Denmark, officials said they were not notified of a trade

"I don't have any formal confirmation of this," Denmark's Charge d'Affaires in Khartoum, Karin Soerensen, said.

She said she "can't confirm" al-Bashir's threats to expel Danish organizations because Sudanese authorities have not contacted Copenhagen about that either.

Several aid groups from Denmark operate in Sudan, including the Danish Refugee Council and the Danish Red Cross, which runs large projects to alleviate human suffering in the western Darfur region.

"We have decided to keep low profile for the time being," Anders Ladekarl, head of the Danish Red Cross' international department, told The Associated Press in Copenhagen. He said the organization hadn't received any threats or any formal note from Sudan instructing it to leave the country.

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen also declined to comment on the imports boycott. "The picture is a bit blurry right now," Fogh Rasmussen told reporters in Denmark.

Sudan's al-Bashir, who came to power in an Islamist and military coup in 1989, has imposed the Muslim Sharia law on northern Sudan.

Sudan was one of the countries where large protests were held
against Denmark in 2006 when 12 cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad and Islam were first published.

In riots that followed around the Muslim world, dozens of people were killed and several Danish embassies were attacked, while Danish goods -including dairy products - were boycotted.

Danish newspapers said they reprinted one of the cartoons earlier this month in support of free speech after three men were arrested in an alleged plot to kill the cartoonist.

Since then, the Danish government has closely monitored the
situation in Muslim countries in view of renewed protests, which for now at least have remained low-scale.

"The situation is very unclear and there is a very volatile
picture," Fogh Rasmussen said.

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