September 27, 2019 / 10:06 PM / 24 days ago

After U.S. talks, Sudan sees path to lifting sanctions soon

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Sudan’s prime minister said on Friday he had held useful talks with U.S. officials while at the United Nations this week, and expressed hope Khartoum could reach an agreement to be removed from Washington’s state-sponsored terrorism list “very soon.”

FILE PHOTO: Sudan Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok speaks during joint press conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Khartoum, Sudan September 3, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

Abdalla Hamdok, an economist, was appointed in August as leader of a transition government, vowing to stabilize the country and repair an economy battered by years of U.S. sanctions and government mismanagement during Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year rule.

But Sudan has so far been unable to tap the International Monetary Fund and World Bank for support because the United States still lists the country as a state sponsor of terrorism.

“Coming to the (United Nations) General Assembly provided us with a huge opportunity to meet many leaders in the American administration,” Hamdok told reporters after a high-level event to drum up support for his country at the annual gathering of world leaders.

“We had a very useful discussion on the issue of state- sponsored terrorism. We hope as we move forward we will be able to conclude very soon an agreement that would allow Sudan to be delisted.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed support at the Sudan event, held on the sidelines of the General Assembly, for Hamdok’s efforts. He called for the immediate removal of “Sudan’s designation as a terrorist-supporting state and lifting all economic sanctions and mobilizing massive financial support for development to make the current political gains durable.”

Shortages of bread, fuel and medicine coupled with hefty price rises sparked protests that led to the toppling of longtime ruler Bashir in April.

But the transitional government will need U.S. support to address debt issues and attract investment. It will launch a nine-month economic rescue plan in October aimed at curbing rampant inflation while ensuring supplies of basic goods. It is also asking the World Bank for $2 billion.

“The new Sudan that is upholding governance and democracy is not a threat to any nation in the world,” Hamdok said.

A senior U.S. official said in August that Washington would test the commitment of Sudan’s new transitional government to human rights, freedom of speech and humanitarian access before it agrees to remove the country from a list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The U.S. State Department was not immediately available for comment on Friday.

Sudan was designated a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993 under then-U.S. President Bill Clinton, cutting it off from financial markets and strangling its economy, over allegations that Bashir’s Islamist government was supporting terrorism, notably attacks in Kenya and Tanzania.

Washington lifted a 20-year trade embargo against Sudan in 2017 and was in the process of discussions on removing it from the U.S. list when the military stepped in on April 11 to depose Bashir.

The Trump administration suspended talks on normalizing relations with Sudan and demanded that the military hand power to a civilian government.

A senior European diplomat said the U.S. government considered that the new government had to assume the responsibilities of the previous administration.

“I don’t think the Americans are ready yet. They still think that today’s Sudan must pay for the crimes of yesterday’s Sudan when it comes to legal cases out there related to the terrorist attacks in Nairobi or Dar es Salaam,” said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“It’s very hard on the Sudanese, so the key is finding a formula to resolve this,” the diplomat said. “If we can unlock that, then it will open the door for the whole (transitional) process.”

Reporting by John Irish; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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