U.S. prepared to impose additional costs on Sudan's military if violence continues

Protesters march during a rally against military rule following last month's coup in Khartoum, Sudan, January 24, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

WASHINGTON, Feb 1 (Reuters) - The United States has made clear to Sudan's military leaders that Washington is prepared to impose additional costs if violence against protesters continues and is looking at options to increase pressure, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee said on Tuesday.

Phee told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the United States is reviewing the full range of traditional and non-traditional tools at its disposal to reduce funds available to Sudan's military leadership and isolate its military-controlled companies.

Washington is also looking at tools to increase the reputational risk for those that choose to continue to engage in "business-as-usual" with Sudanese security services, Phee said.

"I have made clear publicly and privately that violence against peaceful protesters perpetrated by security services since Oct. 25 must end," Phee said.

At least 79 civilians have been killed and more than 2,000 injured in crackdowns on the protests, mainly by gunshots and teargas canisters, according to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors.

Asked by the committee's chairman, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, if there was progress persuading the Sudanese military to stop using lethal force, arbitrary arrests and sexual violence against civil society activists and protesters, Phee said that it was "too soon to tell."

Phee said President Joe Biden's administration is actively looking at how to impose pressure on companies controlled by Sudanese security forces in various sectors, adding that Washington has talked about using both existing authorities and developing new ones to increase pressure.

"We're looking very hard right now at non-traditional methods of pressure, particularly in terms of, for example, the illicit gold mining that takes place, and we're also looking at the many enterprises that are owned by security forces," Phee said.

An October coup halted a power sharing arrangement between the military and civilians negotiated in 2019 after former president Omar al-Bashir was overthrown in an uprising.

Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis Editing by Alistair Bell

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.