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One rogue state down, six still to go

June 19, 2003

By Guy Dinmore in Washington
June 19 2003
Financial Times

Iraq has been promoted out of the league, but six other countries are still listed. How the US deals with these “rogue” states has become a battlefield of its own within the Bush administration, although there are signs diplomacy may prevail over military might in one or two cases. Advertisement

Iran, Libya, North Korea, Cuba, Sudan and Syria are still officially designated as “state sponsors of terrorism”, and thus subject to varying degrees of US sanctions.

Chester Crocker, former US assistant secretary of state for African affairs and now professor of strategic studies at Georgetown University, says the rogue state terminology is overused, a clumsy tool that lumps together states belonging to very distinct categories.

The inner circle, described by President George W. Bush as the “axis of evil”, has lost Iraq and now comprises just Iran and North Korea. Their advanced nuclear programmes have kept them in the limelight, obscuring diplomatic efforts that could see progress elsewhere in the world.

Last month, Sudan’s foreign minister, Mustafa Othman Ismail, visited Washington for talks with Colin Powell, secretary of state, focusing on joint efforts to end Africa’s longest-running war. An end would lead to a lifting of US sanctions, officials say. The State Department’s “Patterns of Global Terrorism” report for 2002 said the US was pleased with Sudan’s co-operation in their joint anti-terrorism activities, but noted Palestinian militants were still based there.

A recent report on Libya by the Atlantic Council, a non-partisan think-tank, chaired by Mr Crocker, asserts that “by all indications, Libya has changed its policy on terrorism”.

The US is engaged in intense diplomacy with Syria, a country that one senior State Department official recently described as an “axis of evil aspirant”.

Visiting Washington on Wednesday, Buthaina Shabaan, spokeswoman for the Syrian foreign ministry, described the dialogue as “very intense and constructive”.

Of the six “rogues”, it is with the state that poses the least direct threat to the US – Cuba – where matters are most unresolved.

“This is not foreign policy but Florida policy,” commented a former US official, referring to the importance of the exiled Cuban vote in the state.

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