|Page 3 of 3 <|
Former Reagan Aide Robert McFarlane's Dealings With Sudan Raise Questions
McFarlane said he became interested in Sudan during an interfaith trip to the region with members of Congress in 2007, and he has done consulting work in southern Sudan since then. In November 2008, McFarlane recounted in an e-mail, he was approached by a former business partner, Albino Aboug, on behalf of Sudan's government.
"Albino asked whether I was willing to discuss with senior representatives from the Khartoum government how to foster negotiations between Khartoum and the Darfur rebel groups and also how to move toward renewed diplomatic negotiations between our countries," McFarlane wrote. "I agreed to do so."
In early January, Aboug and McFarlane met in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with Babiker, who is currently stationed as a Sudanese diplomat in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; it is unclear whether a Qatari representative was present, and McFarlane declined to provide details. The Qatari Embassy in Washington did not respond to telephone messages.
What followed was a month-long exchange of e-mails and documents between McFarlane and Babiker, culminating with McFarlane's contract with Qatar. Sudanese officials asked McFarlane to approach four former U.S. diplomats to ask whether they were interested in assisting in the effort;
a proposed budget set aside $100,000 a month to pay them.
But all four men turned McFarlane down. Former Missouri senator and Sudan envoy John Danforth said in an interview that he felt his involvement would create "confusion" among the parties; another former envoy for President George W. Bush, Rich Williamson, said, "It didn't make sense for me to get involved."
Robert B. Oakley, a former ambassador to Somalia and Zaire who served as Danforth's deputy, said McFarlane told him he was "trying to broker some arrangements between the Sudanese government and the Obama administration."
"He's a wheeler-dealer," Oakley added. "I remember him from Iran-contra and all the rest. I didn't get into it; I didn't want to, quite frankly."
During this time, Babiker was in regular communication with senior Sudanese intelligence officials about McFarlane, the documents show.
The documents suggest that the parties were keen to avoid public links between McFarlane and Sudan, with McFarlane stressing the need for a third party such as Qatar.
Yet an Arabic-language memo from Babiker to an unidentified Sudanese superior on Jan. 25 refers to the need to "provide the necessary money for the activities of the group," according to a translation. A week later, McFarlane sent an electronic copy of the proposed contract with Qatar to Babiker "for your consideration" before it was signed, the documents show.
McFarlane also drafted a letter from Qatar inviting himself to the contract signing, then sent the language to Babiker to pass on to Qatar for approval. The final contract was signed in Doha, Qatar's capital, on Feb. 9 with Sudanese officials present, according to the records.
McFarlane, whose salary under the contract is $410,400, according to a fee schedule sent to Babiker, said he has "no basis for assuming" that Sudan is funding any part of the contract.
Babiker confirmed his talks with McFarlane in an e-mail but did not respond to a list of follow-up questions.
Staff writer Stephanie McCrummen in Khartoum and staff writer Michael A. Fletcher and research director Alice Crites in Washington contributed to this report.