|DIPLOMATIC REACTION: SUDAN|
August 21, 1998
In a strike against the terrorist organization allegedly responsible for the embassy bombings in Africa, the U.S. launched a cruise missile attack against targets in Sudan and Afghanistan. The Sudanese representative to the U.N. responds to the attack.
PHIL PONCE: The American missiles were fired at targets in Sudan in Africa and Afghanistan in South Asia. We hear first from Sudan's Ambassador to the United Nations, Elfatih Erwa. Mr. Ambassador, welcome.
ELFATIH ERWA, U.N. Ambassador, Sudan: Thank you.
PHIL PONCE: First of all, what can you tell us about the latest. What's the latest, as far as the amount of damage and the number of casualties in your country?
ELFATIH ERWA: Actually we don't receive any number of casualties, and I know that the damage is-the plant is totally damaged.
|"A big lie"|
PHIL PONCE: We just heard the President's national security adviser, Mr. Berger, say that the United States had "indisputable physical evidence" that the factory that was targeted was being used in connection with the production of chemical weapons. What's your reaction to that?
ELFATIH ERWA: My government is saying this is a big lie, because there is in all our dealings with the United States we have diplomatic relations, they have never hinted that to us; they have never even mentioned this. Above all, in the Security Council committee for sanctions against Iraq, they issued this factory or this plant a permission to export medicines to Iraq in the program for-oil for food.
And this-at that time the United States did not-and this was very recently-it's just several months ago-the United States did not say anything about this plant, and it did not say it's a chemical weapon. They accepted it, and it passed, and it had their approval, and the approval there-we filed it, together with our complaint to the Security Council.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Ambassador, would your government be open to persuasion to the presentation of evidence that, in fact, the factory was being used improperly?
ELFATIH ERWA: Actually, we demand now from the Security Council to send a fact-finding committee, because we have been subject to this aggression and strike, which we call it a terrorist strike, a state terroristic strike, because it has been subject to innocent people. And we really demand from the Security Council to send this committee to see these American allegations.
First of all, they base it on two things: one, that this factory's producing chemical weapons. Let's see whether it is true or not. The second allegation is that this factory belongs to Osama bin Laden. And I think this is a very na´ve assumption, because all the papers, everything shows, and there are very respectful and esteemed businessmen running this one, and it's being financed by African sub-regional bank-it's a PTA-and of the commerce of East and Southern Africa.
|A connection to bin Laden?|
PHIL PONCE: So you're saying there's no connection between this and Mr. bin Laden, either financial or otherwise, none at all?
ELFATIH ERWA: Not at all. It's-for the United States to bring in the proof that this has connection to bin Laden, it's not we, because there it is standing, there it is financed by African sub-regional organizations.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Ambassador, what is your country's relationship with Mr. bin Laden?
ELFATIH ERWA: We don't have any relation with Mr. bin Laden. Mr. bin Laden came to Sudan after the Gulf War, when he went out and came to Sudan as an investor. He made the construction company, but lately when he announced his opposition to the Saudi government, and we found that his presence in Sudan is not to the national security of Sudan, we expelled him, and we expelled him also on the demand of the U.S. government. And it is the U.S. Government who did not demand bin Laden to go anywhere, except Somalia. He can go anywhere. We told him that he's going to Afghanistan. And since he left Afghanistan, we just hear his news from the CNN, like others.
PHIL PONCE: So you're saying that your country, at the request of the United States, kicked Mr. bin Laden out and basically sent him to Afghanistan?
ELFATIH ERWA: That's absolutely what has happened about two years and three months ago.
PHIL PONCE: And has Mr. bin Laden, to your knowledge, been in contact with your government at all since then?
ELFATIH ERWA: Never. And all his business in Sudan has been liquidated.
|Business with bin Laden?|
PHIL PONCE: There were published reports that he continues to have business interests in Sudan. Those published reports then are not accurate?
ELFATIH ERWA: Not accurate. Anybody can publish anything, but the facts are there on the ground.
PHIL PONCE: What communications has your government had with the United States Government?
ELFATIH ERWA: We have been communicating with the United States Government about terrorism issues more than two years ago. But we found that although we have diplomatic relations, that wherever we try to bring it out and ask for what do you want us to do, how do you want us to prove that, we don't get any response, and we just keep listening to the propaganda-and in everywhere accusing us-it's only mere allegations, without giving a chance for somebody to prove otherwise.
PHIL PONCE: And when was the last time that your government was in communication with the United States Government?
ELFATIH ERWA: We have an existing diplomatic conditions, although today our president has announced that he will withdraw the diplomats from Washington, D.C., but still we had-and we have been always maintaining contact. But no ears to listen to us.
PHIL PONCE: As you know, yesterday President Clinton said that your country was basically harboring and supporting terrorism. Your response to that.
ELFATIH ERWA: I think my government was saying also if the American administration can lie about other things, which the whole American people and the international world know, it's very simple for them to lie about a small country, far away in Africa, thousands of miles, which does not pose any threat to the United States.
PHIL PONCE: So what is it you'd like for people in this country to know about your country?
ELFATIH ERWA: I would like the people to know that we are very-its largest country in Africa, the-one of the poor countries, and we are fighting to get the bread for our people. We don't have money or time to waste in approving chemical arsenal.
PHIL PONCE: What is the-what is the next step that your country is going to take?
ELFATIH ERWA: Our next step is that we already filed the complaint with the United Nations. We want to seek everything by a legal means. We believe that this is an unfounded aggression. Again, it's the international law. We just want justice. The justice is that send a committee to find whether the allegations that the American government used to hit innocent people in the night in Khartoum true or not.
PHIL PONCE: So you are open to having independent observers visit your country, inspect the target and look for evidence of which side is telling the truth?
ELFATIH ERWA: Absolutely. And there are two things: The Americans, as I said, they said it's a chemical weapon and they say it belongs to bin Laden; we'd like them to prove that.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Ambassador, I thank you for joining us.
ELFATIH ERWA: Thank you.