WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama Tuesday extended sanctions on Sudan for another year, saying Khartoum's policies had not yet improved enough to warrant their removal.
Obama's order maintains several sets of U.S. sanctions imposed since 1997 which restrict U.S. trade and investment with Sudan and block the assets of the Sudanese government and certain officials.
The United States had offered Khartoum the chance to put relations on a better footing if it cooperated with the January referendum that set South Sudan on the path to declare its independence on July 9.
While the vote went off relatively smoothly, Khartoum and the South Sudan government in Juba have remained at loggerheads over the main oil-producing border state of South Kordofan, where rebels and government forces have repeatedly clashed since June.
Violence has also broken out in Blue Nile and Abyei states, while U.S. officials say they have not seen sufficient progress in western Darfur region, where mainly non-Arab rebels took up arms against Khartoum in 2003 leading to a harsh government crackdown that Washington and some activists labeled genocide.
Khartoum has denied the genocide charge, and repeatedly urged the United States to drop punitive measures against it which include its inclusion on an official U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The United States has so far taken some small initial steps to lift export controls on agricultural machinery to help Sudan's struggling food sector, but has stressed that further progress is contingent on Khartoum's behavior.
Washington has lifted sanctions on South Sudan, hoping to help the new country gain its economic footing. But it is still seeking to clarify implementation of sanctions on Sudan's oil industry, which is deeply interconnected between the two countries.
Sudan's foreign ministry condemned the extension of the sanctions.
"The government of Sudan strongly condemns the renewal of these sanctions," the ministry said in a statement. "The sanctions imposed by the U.S. administration are political sanctions which were and still are aimed at damaging Sudan's vital interests by hindering development ambitions and plans to fight poverty."
Khartoum has always said that the sanctions hit ordinary Sudanese, who face an economic crisis and spiraling inflation after the independence of South Sudan, which took most of the country's oil production.
Reporting by Andrew Quinn; additional reporting by Ulf Laessing in Khartoum; editing by Jackie Frank