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Niger Cuts Diplomatic Relations With Israel

April 22 2002


NIAMEY, April 22 (IslamOnline & News Agencies) - The Muslim-dominated African country of Niger announced Sunday, April 21, it was cutting diplomatic relations with Israel, in an official statement broadcast on the radio.

"At this dramatic and particularly grave moment in which the martyrs of Palestine are living, the government has ceased to have diplomatic relations with the state of Israel," the statement said Sunday, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

Niger blamed the move on the "intransigence" of hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the 18-month conflict with the Palestinians.

"He has clearly shown his desire to risk all the gains made under the peace process ... and poses the gravest threat to peace and security throughout the entire region."

The west African country, where more than 90 percent of the population is Muslim, restored diplomatic ties with Israel in 1996 after severing them in 1973 following the Egyptian-Israeli war.

Earlier this month, the Niger government lambasted the "inhuman and barbaric war unleashed by the racist government of Sharon" against the Palestinians.

Thousands demonstrated at the main mosque in the capital Niamey a week ago to support Palestinians in their struggle against the "Zionist enemy."

On the same note, some 10,000 South Africans cheered cabinet minister Ronnie Kasrils Sunday when he said he did not support the "barbarism" of Israel's military aggression in Palestinian territories.

"When we see this barbarism, this criminality that Israel perpetrates... I am forced to say: Not in my name," Kasrils said to a standing ovation from the crowd at a "Free Palestine" rally organized by the South African Muslim Judicial Council. The crowd shouted "Amandla Intifada".

The rally took place amid growing criticism of Israel by Pretoria, which is facing public pressure to impose sanctions against Israel. Kasrils, the South African Water Affairs Minister is part of a small group of South African Jews who have signed a declaration against Israel's actions in Palestinian territories.

Women waved placards comparing Israel's actions against Palestinians to the apartheid policies of South Africa's former white minority government.

"We stand with the Palestinian people in their just struggle for freedom, for equality, for dignity," Kasrils said. Kasrils said President Thabo Mbeki and his government would seriously consider calls for sanctions against Israel, including boycotting of Israeli goods.

Ebrahim Rasool, a minister in the Western Cape, urged those at the rally to boycott Israel goods.