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AFP
September 24, 2020

America seeks breakthrough on Sudan

World

AFP
September 24, 2020

WASHINGTON: With weeks to go before US elections, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is racing to make a breakthrough with Sudan that he hopes could also benefit Israel.

Sudan’s new civilian-led government is urgently seeking to be removed from the US blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism, and is seen by Washington as open to becoming the latest Arab state to recognise Israel — a major cause for President Donald Trump’s electoral base.

“The United States has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to ensure that compensation is finally provided to victims of the 1998 al-Qaeda-backed terrorist attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania,” Pompeo wrote in a letter to senators that was confirmed by congressional sources.

“We also have a unique and narrow window to support the civilian-led transitional government in Sudan that has finally rid itself of the Islamist dictatorship that previously led that country.” Sudan is one of four nations listed as a state sponsor of terrorism by the United States, severely impeding investment as businesses worry of legal risks in dealing with the country.

The designation dates back to 1993 when then strongman Omar al-Bashir welcomed Islamists including Osama bin Laden, the founder of Al-Qaeda, which carried out the embassy attacks that claimed more than 200 lives.

Washington had been gradually reconciling with Bashir, who agreed to independence for mostly Christian South Sudan. But Sudan was transformed last year when Bashir was deposed following a wave of youth-led protests. British-educated economist Abdalla Hamdok has become the new prime minister with a reformist mandate in a transitional arrangement with the military. Sudan’s delisting has been held up by a dispute over a package of some $335 million that Khartoum would pay as compensation to victims’ families and survivors of the embassy attacks.

Completing a compensation package “is one of the highest priorities for the Department of State,” a spokesperson said. In his letter, Pompeo said it was “very likely” that an agreement on claims and on delisting Sudan from the terror blacklist would be completed by the end of October -- days before the November 3 election. But Congress also needs to pass legislation to provide Sudan immunity from further claims.