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Sudan rejects linking removal from U.S. terrorism list with Israel ties

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan does not want to link its removal from a U.S. terrorism list that is hindering access to foreign funding for its economy with a normalisation of relations with Israel, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said on Saturday.

FILE PHOTO: Sudan's Prime Minister in the transitional government Abdalla Hamdok in Khartoum, Sudan December 25, 2019. REUTERS/ Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo

Sources said this week that U.S. officials indicated in talks with a Sudanese delegation they wanted Khartoum to follow the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and open ties with Israel.

Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism dates back to its toppled ruler Omar al-Bashir, and makes it difficult for its transitional government to access urgently needed debt relief and foreign financing.

Hamdok said Sudan had told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a visit last month it was necessary to separate the issues.

“This topic (ties to Israel) needs a deep discussion of the society,” he told a conference in Khartoum.

Sudan’s surging inflation and plummeting currency have been the biggest challenges to Hamdok’s transitional administration, which rules with the military since Bashir’s ouster.

Sudan was put on the U.S. list in 1993 because the United States believed Bashir’s government was supporting militant groups. But many in Sudan consider this is undeserved since Bashir was removed last year and Sudan has long cooperated with the United States on counter-terrorism.

During a video statement to the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday, which was pre-recorded because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Hamdok said Sudan was actively cooperating with international and bilateral efforts to fight terrorism and terrorism financing.

“Sudan’s name should be removed from the list of countries that are sponsoring terrorism. Sudan has returned to the international fold after 30 years outside it. This must happen,” he said. “We hail the efforts of the U.S. government and the U.S. Congress to remove Sudan’s name from the list.”

The White House and State Department have declined to comment when asked about the status of negotiations.

Sudan was a staunch foe of Israel under Bashir. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the chairman of Sudan’s transitional military council, had a surprise meeting in Uganda earlier this year with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Writing by Ulf Laessing, additional reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Jane Merriman and Grant McCool