|Tens of thousands of Sudanese took part yesterday in a government-backed rally denouncing Denmark. (ABD RAOUF/ASSOCIATED PRESS)|
KHARTOUM, Sudan - President Omar al-Bashir vowed yesterday to ban Danes from Sudan and called for a Muslim boycott of Denmark as a crowd of tens of thousands denounced the country at a government-backed protest against a cartoon satirizing the Prophet Mohammed.
The rally outside Bashir's palace in Khartoum was the largest protest in the Muslim world since Danish papers reprinted the cartoon, seen by many Muslims as insulting to their religion's most revered figure. The demonstration raised fears that renewed protests over the cartoon - so far small and scattered - could grow.
"We urge all Muslims around the world to boycott Danish commodities, goods, companies, institutions, organizations and personalities," Bashir told the crowd.
"Down, down, Denmark!" shouted the protesters. Al-Bashir vowed that "not a single Danish foot will from now on desecrate the land of Sudan."
It was not clear whether Bashir would expel the two dozen Danes who work in Sudan, mostly in aid organizations and as peacekeepers in southern Sudan and Darfur. The Danish charge d'affaires in Khartoum, Karin Soerensen, said her mission had not been notified of any order for Danes to leave and would not comment whether there were any plans to evacuate them.
Bashir's Islamist government has frequently used perceived insults to Mohammed to rally support for the regime and opposition to international pressure to accept UN peacekeepers' presence. He has barred peacekeepers from Sweden and Norway from a joint UN-African force in the Darfur region because papers in those countries published similar cartoons in the past.
Khartoum began enforcing a ban on Danish products Tuesday.
If Sudan moves to try to expel Danes from the peacekeeping force in the south or from the Darfur force, known as UNAMID, it would further strain ties with the United Nations.
Adrian Edwards, a UNAMID spokesman, said the United Nations had not received any official notification about an expulsion of Danish subjects from Sudan.
The Danish government did not respond to Bashir's statements yesterday.
Earlier this month, 17 Danish newspapers reprinted the cartoon showing Mohammed wearing a bomb-shaped turban - a gesture of solidarity after police in the Scandinavian country said they uncovered a plot to kill the cartoon's artist.
Sudan was one of the nations where large protests were held against Denmark in 2006, when the cartoon and 11 others depicting Mohammed and Islam were first published.
In riots that followed around the Muslim world, dozens of people were killed and several Danish embassies were attacked, while Danish goods were boycotted.
Khartoum's protest was peaceful yesterday, ending after several hours. The rally failed to muster the 1 million participants sought by the organizers, the Popular Front for the Defense of Faith and Religion, which backs Bashir's ruling National Congress party.
The protesters carried banners reading: "We love you our dear prophet," and shouted, "We will protect our prophet, we will not be intimidated by America!"