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Sudan's Turabi Says Islam Now 'Entrenched'

Powerful speaker of parliament claims America's raid on a Khartoum factory Aug. 20 will only 'create 10,000 bin Ladens.'

After the American cruise-missile strike on a factory in Khartoum Aug. 20, one man's appointment book filled up faster than anyone else's in Sudan.

From dawn until long after dusk, day after day, Hassan al-Turabi took advantage of the influx of Western journalists to convey Sudan's message to the world. Often seen as the power behind the throne of Sudan's Islamic government, the speaker of parliament has been called the "pope of terrorism" in the Western media.

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But that is a point the cleric makes himself, laughing at its impossibility. In English, he speaks fast, flexing his Oxford and Sorbonne education, blending classical Islamic theology with his more-modern notions of justice.

"The [US] president wanted a target, and on his list Sudan was there," he says, gesticulating while sitting in his living room. "He finished his battle with Iran, and now it's our turn. This is a terrorist act against Sudan, a terrorist act."

Any effort by Washington to overthrow the regime, nine years after it came to power in a military coup is bound to fail, he says.

"Islam now is entrenched, and no one can remove it by force anymore," he says. "If you use force, we can defend ourselves. If you come in peace, we welcome you; if you come to fight us, we can fight back. We are powerful."

BUT war is not a natural part of Islam, Mr. Turabi says. The word (Islam) means "peace," and was not first the word of Muhammad, the prophet of God for Islam, but of Abraham long before him.

"We are not allowed as Muslims to initiate aggression - the only thing we can initiate are greetings," he says, laughing. Then, more seriously:

"This is not the American people. I know the American people; in every state I have met many American families. They are not against Islam, they are not imperialist.

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"Why are [Americans] standing out as the anti-Islamic force in the world?" Turabi asks.

The US effort to neutralize Osama bin Laden with missiles will have the opposite effect, he predicts, and "create 10,000 bin Ladens."

"Osama bin Laden is a fighter, and a businessman. Who trained him as a fighter?" he asks, referring to Mr. bin Laden's start as an Islamic "freedom fighter" working with the CIA against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

"He lives in a very remote place there, but now - ho, ho! - you raised him as the hero, the symbol of all anti-West forces in the world," Turabi says, emphasizing the irony.

"All the Arab and Muslim young people, believe me, look to him as an example."

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