8 December 2012

Sudan: Fresh Visit By Iranian Warships to Sudan

Khartoum — Two Iranian warships have arrived at the coastal city of Port Sudan on Saturday, according to a military statement out of Iran.

Fars, which is Iran's state news agency, quoted the Navy's public relations office as saying that its 23rd fleet of warships including Jamaran destroyer and the logistical chopper carrier vessel, Bushehr docked in Sudan "after passing through the strategic Strait of Bab el-Mandeb and accomplishing its mission in the Red Sea".

The statement added that the fleet's commanders have already had a meeting with senior Sudanese navy commanders including Navy Commander Abdullah Matari along with Tehran's ambassador to Khartoum.

Matari urged further expansion of Iran-Sudan military cooperation, and announced that he will pay a visit to Iran in the near future.

The Iranian ambassador to Khartoum thanked Sudan's "warm welcome" to the ships calling it "an honor" for Iran.

On Friday, Sudan's army spokesperson Colonel Al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa'ad said the visit is part of "military and military exchange" and will stay for three days during which they will be open for view by ordinary visitors.

The ships were originally scheduled to arrive in the last week of November but was delayed for unspecified reasons on the Iranian side.

This is the second stop by Iranian ships since October amid controversy within the Sudanese government and parliament on the benefits behind such a move to Khartoum.

The first one came few days after a suspected Israeli airstrike on a weapons factory in the Sudanese capital amid allegations from the Jewish state that the country is serving as a hub for Iranian weapons headed to militants in Gaza strip.

Khartoum vehemently dismissed the accusations saying the visit was pre-planned but its foreign minister Ali Karti warned publicly last month about the dangers of closer relations with Iran saying he advised the government not to receive them earlier this year but was not consulted the second time.

Karti also said that rich Arab Gulf states are unhappy with the Sudan-Iran ties which he suggested could deny the country much needed investments.

"Sudan needs to understand that this visit will not be accepted by Saudi Arabia," Khalid al-Dakhil, a Saudi political analyst was quoted by Reuters as well.

The conflicting views with government circles signal struggle between hardliners and moderate.

"You have here a conflict of moderate forces who want to break the isolation and hardliners in the army who don't care about the West. They think wooing the West is a lost cause so they focus on Iran and Hamas," one Western diplomat told Reuters today.

In November the Saudi pro-government Al-Riyadh newspaper said in its editorial titled "The fall of masks between Iran and Sudan" blasted Khartoum over the Iranian warships saying there is no "logical justification" for relationship between the two countries.

"Bashir's government resorting to a state that is in political and security odds with most Arab countries has no logical justification," the newspaper said.

"Syria did not openly declare its alliance with Iran but except for claiming that it is in the trenches of resistance and opposition which is a major lie. But Sudan does not have the same reasoning for the loss of credibility and the fact that what it is conducting is naive policy".

The editorial said that the Sudanese government turned the country, despite its enormous potentials, to a marginalized nation that is unable to attract Arab or foreign investors.

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