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SUDAN - The Challenge Of Globalisation - Part 17.

Sudan made a timely decision to change its geo-political track in early 2000, when the parallel-rule system - which involved a figurehead president and a more powerful figure behind the scenes - came to an end in favour of the presidency. The move was timely because, by Sept. 11, 2001, the Khartoum regime had managed to improve its relations with the key Western players - namely the US and Britain, the former colonial power - and thus it stood better poised to deal with the fall-out in terms of the war against terrorism.

Observers believe that, had President Omar Hassan Al Bashir not begun to change direction early enough to convince these powers of his regime's intentions, Sudan may well have become one of the first targets in the American war against terrorism. Instead, what is happening now is that Khartoum is co-operating with the US - in terms of providing intelligence leads, arresting Al Qaida suspects and facilitating American anti-terror operations in the area.

Having experienced an Islamic takeover through the "backdoor" in 1989, Sudan was one of two countries in the Middle East (apart from Iran) where Islamic leaders held the reins of power throughout the 1990s. The government was a combination of military officers and Islamists, with the real power residing in the hands of Shaikh Hassan Al Turabi, the then parliament speaker and chief Islamic ideologue. The policies put in place by Turabi, who had forged links with Islamist activists and militant formations from Morocco to Pakistan, alienated the US and other Western powers and generated hostility among Sudan's neighbours.

Indeed, during Osama Bin Ladin's years spent in exile in Sudan, during the early-to mid-1990s, Turabi had close contact with him and was considered even as a mentor. Some of Turabi's ideas can be seen behind Bin Ladin's global approach to Islam and its revival. Turabi, whose ideologies evolved since his beginnings with the Muslim Brotherhood, had an extensive network of contacts throughout the Middle East - extending from Afghanistan to North Africa. Indeed, he was regarded in the West as a sort of eminence grise among Islamist leaders.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Fate of the Arabian Peninsula
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:6SUDA
Date:May 6, 2002
Previous Article:SYRIA - Political Reforms Will Be Deferred.
Next Article:SUDAN - Bashir Shifts Khartoum's Orientation.

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