Editor Says Nimeiri, Sharon Discussed Airlift of Ethiopian Jews
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ As president of Sudan, Gaafar Nimeiri met with Ariel Sharon, then Israel’s defense minister, to discuss an airlift of Ethiopian Jews to Israel via Sudan, an Egyptian editor claims in an article published Wednesday.
Anis Mansour, editor of the monthly magazine Wadi el-Nil (Nile Valley), said the meeting in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, was held about two years ago and was arranged by Saudi Arabian multimillionaire Adnan Khashoggi.
Nimeiri was deposed in a military coup on April 6 and Sharon is now Israel’s minister of commerce.
Many Arab leaders have condemned the airlift, which succeeded in transporting thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel late last year.
In the article, Mansour said, ″It is certain that President Nimeiri went to Nairobi at the invitation of his friend Adnan Khashoggi and met at Khashoggi’s luxurious palace with Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon.″
″No one knows exactly what happened at the meeting ... (but) it is said that agreement was reached then on a deal to transport the Falashas (Ethiopian Jews) to Israel via Khartoum,″ the Sudanese capital.
The article said the date of the meeting was not known, but Mansour told The Associated Press it occurred ″about two years ago.″
It was not immediately possible to obtain independent confirmation of Mansour’s report.
At least 7,OOO Ethiopian Jews, fleeing the drought and separatist fighting in Marxist-ruled Ethiopia, were flown to Israel from Sudan between November and January on chartered aircraft. Israel suspended the secret airlift on Jan. 4 after the news media carried reports of the operation.
Nimeiri, while still president, denied repeated allegations by Arab critics that he had cooperated with Israel in the airlift. Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, but the other Arab countries, including Sudan, consider that a state of war still exists with the Jewish state.
Nimeiri was ousted while he was returning from a visit to the United States and his plane landed in Cairo. He has remained in Egypt, but Egyptian authorities have barred reporters from seeing him.
Mansour wrote that two months before the April coup, a Sudanese officer, who he did not identify, ″fled to Saudi Arabia with all documents″ related to the Falasha airlift. He said the officer planned to go to Tunisia to present the documents to the Tunis-based Arab League.
Saudi authorities held the officer for three days, photocopied the documents, and then sent him back to Khartoum after obtaining a promise from Nimeiri not to prosecute him, Mansour wrote.
He reported that Gen. Abdul-Rahman Swareddahab, who led the Sudanese coup, said in an interview he had no knowledge of a Nimeiri-Sharon meeting but had heard about the officer who fled to Saudi Arabia.
″I have no details, but investigations will reveal what happened,″ Mansour quoted Swareddahab as saying.
Swareddahab’s government has said it will investigate the airlift and possibly try Sudanese officials deemed responsible.
Mansour is a government-appointed editor of Wadi el-Nil, which is published jointly by the Egyptian and Sudanese governments. It is an offshoot of the 1982 ″integration charter″ providing for policy coordination between the two countries. Its first issue was last February.