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US praises Sudan counter-terror efforts

Sudan strongman Bashir

Washington, United States | AFP |  The United States on Thursday praised Sudan’s efforts in fighting terrorism ahead of a decision expected in October on whether to lift decades-old sanctions on Khartoum.

“The United States notes Sudan’s improved counterterrorism efforts through enhanced interagency and international cooperation to address the threat from ISIS and other terrorist organizations,” Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said in a statement.

“The United States welcomes the recent announcements by the governments of Sudan and Saudi Arabia underscoring Sudan’s commitment to sustain positive dialogue with the United States,” the statement added.

Relations between Washington and Khartoum improved significantly under the administration of former US president Barack Obama, who had in January eased the sanctions imposed in 1997 with a view to lifting them completely after a six month review.

President Trump last week extended the review period to October 12, angering Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir who initially announced he would cut-off talks before reversing his decision and saying he would continue to work for an end to the embargo.

The US outlined “five tracks” that Sudan must adhere to, including an end to hostilities against armed groups in Sudan, halting support for insurgents in neighboring South Sudan and counterterrorism cooperation with Washington.

Washington imposed a complex set of economic sanctions on Sudan in 1997 for its alleged backing of Islamist militant groups.

Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was killed in a US commando raid in Pakistan in 2011, was based in Khartoum from 1992 to 1996.

Washington has also pointed to accusations of scorched-earth tactics by Khartoum against ethnic minority rebels in Darfur.

At least 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced since the Darfur conflict erupted in 2003, the UN says.

But a reduction in fighting in the region prompted the UN to downsize the number of peacekeepers deployed there, a top official said Thursday.

“The fact is that there is much less fighting in Darfur,” Jean-Pierre Lacroix, chief of UN peacekeeping operations, told reporters in Khartoum.

He said a trimmed down force will be redeployed mainly to the mountainous Jebel Marra region which still is “complicated and more tense.”

 

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