Sudan appoints first ambassador to U.S. for decades

KHARTOUM/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sudan has appointed its first ambassador to the United States for almost a quarter of a century, its foreign ministry said on Monday, in a move to normalize relations after decades of antagonism.

Both countries pledged to improve ties after the fall of veteran Islamist ruler Omar al-Bashir in an uprising a year ago.

The Sudanese foreign ministry said it had chosen Noureldin Sati, a veteran diplomat, as ambassador in Washington and that U.S. authorities had approved his nomination.

A State Department representative declined to provide any insight on plans to appoint its own ambassador to Sudan and said it did not have specific information on the timing for that, but called the December decision to exchange ambassadors “a historic step.”

Both countries had for almost a quarter of century appointed only charge d’affaires, a diplomatic rank under an ambassador, to run their embassies in Washington and Khartoum.

In December, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the two countries would exchange ambassadors. The U.S. ambassador would be nominated by President Donald Trump and needs to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The U.S. government added Sudan to its list of state sponsors of terrorism in 1993 over allegations that Bashir’s Islamist government was supporting Islamist militant groups, leaving Sudan ineligible for badly needed debt relief and financing from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Last year, a senior State Department official said the United States might remove Sudan from the list but the U.S. Congress needed to ratify such a move.

The State Department representative declined to comment on internal U.S. government deliberations on where the talks are about Sudan being removed from the list but added that the two countries remain engaged in active discussions.

“Compensation for the victims of terrorism remains a priority for the U.S. government. The United States and Sudan continue to engage regarding certain terrorism-related claims,” the spokesperson said.

Reporting by Khaled Abdelaziz and Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Jonathan Oatis