Sudan president urges Muslims to boycott Denmark

Khartoum, Sudan — President Omar al-Bashir said Wednesday that he would bar Danes from Sudan and told tens of thousands of people at a government-backed rally that the Muslim world should boycott Denmark because of a reprinted cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed.

“We urge all Muslims around the world to boycott Danish commodities, goods, companies, institutions, organizations and personalities,” Mr. Bashir told the crowd outside the Republic Palace in downtown Khartoum.

“Down, down, Denmark!” shouted the crowd. Mr. Bashir vowed that “not a single Danish foot will from now on desecrate the land of Sudan.”

It was not clear whether Mr. Bashir planned to act on his rhetoric and force out the hundreds of Danes who work in Sudan, most in aid organizations, with a dozen in the United Nations peacekeeping force in southern Sudan. Danish diplomats in Khartoum said they had not been notified of a new trade boycott and that Sudanese authorities had not notified them about expelling Danes.

Seventeen Danish newspapers reprinted the cartoon showing Mohammed wearing a bomb-shaped turban this month in a gesture of solidarity after police said they uncovered a plot to kill the cartoon's artist.

Sudan was one of the nations where large protests were held against Denmark in 2006 when the cartoon and 11 others depicting Mohammed 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 were boycotted.

Danish exports to Sudan are minimal, consisting mainly of dairy products. In 2006, they amounted to $23 million, a drop of 26 per cent over the previous year.

But Sudan is one of the largest recipients of Danish aid and Danish aid groups that operate there include the Danish Refugee Council and the Danish Red Cross, which runs large projects to alleviate suffering in the western Darfur region.

Sudan received $26 million in Danish aid in 2006 and a $100 million humanitarian and reconstruction package is planned through 2009.

Sudan said Tuesday that it had enacted a ban called by Mr. Bashir on imports of Danish goods in response to the cartoon reprint.

Mr. Bashir came to power in an Islamist and military coup in 1989 and has since imposed Muslim Sharia law on the country's predominantly Arab north.

The Khartoum protesters were organized by a group known as The Popular Front for the Defence of Faith and Religion, which backs the ruling National Congress party.

Mr. Bashir also spoke in support of Palestinians and called for holy war to “liberate” Jerusalem. He warned of “other measures” against Denmark apart from boycotting Danish products and institutions but did not elaborate.

Germany's interior minister expressed respect for the newspapers' decision to reprint the cartoon, according to comments released Wednesday.

“I have respect for the fact that Danish newspapers have now all printed the Mohammed caricatures, on the basis (that) we will not let ourselves be divided,” Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble was quoted as saying by the weekly Die Zeit.

“Actually, all European newspapers should now print these caricatures, with the explanation: ‘We also find them lousy, but the exercise of press freedom is no reason to practice violence,'” Mr. Schaeuble added.