Donald Trump has indicated he is ready to remove Sudan from a US blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism, a boost for the civilian-backed government as it turns the page on the nation’s decades as an international pariah. The US President said Sudan had agreed to a $US335m compensation package for victims and relatives of past attacks. “At long last, justice for the American people and a big step for Sudan!” Mr Trump tweeted, vowing to delist Sudan as soon as the compensation was “deposited”. Sudan is one of four nations branded by Washington as a state sponsor of terrorism, severely impeding economic development, with few foreign investors willing to run foul of US laws. After the 9/11 attacks president George W. Bush’s added Iran, North Korea and Iraq, which he called the axis of evil.
Sudan was designated in 1993 during the rule of dictator Omar al-Bashir, who had welcomed al-Qa’ida founder Osama bin Laden as he imposed a brand of political Islamism on the country. The conflict-ridden nation experienced a historic shift last year as Bashir was ousted in the face of youth-led street protests and a civilian-backed transitional government was later installed. Mr Trump’s announcement marks “the strongest support to Sudan’s transition to democracy and to the Sudanese people,” said Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, a reform-minded economist and face of the government that will rule until 2022 elections. “As we’re about to get rid of the heaviest legacy of Sudan’s previous, defunct regime, I should reiterate that we are peace-loving people and have never supported terrorism,” he tweeted.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called Mr Trump’s decision “momentous” and voiced full support. Under US law, Mr Trump can remove a nation from the blacklist after which congress has 45 days to object. Congress will vote on whether to grant Sudan immunity from further claims, an indispensable step for the developing country if it commits $US335m to compensate victims and families over anti-US attacks traced back to Sudanese soil. More than 200 people died in twin al-Qa’ida bombings in 1998 of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Then president Bill Clinton responded with a still disputed missile strike on a pharmaceutical factory on Khartoum’s outskirts. The draft package had divided congress, with some Democrats saying it was unfair by giving more money for US citizens than Africans, who made up the bulk of the victims.
Edith Bartley, spokeswoman for those Americans killed in the Nairobi bombing, said the package would “vindicate the sacrifice of our diplomats abroad”. “Those who wish to have Sudan emerge as an economically viable supporter of regional peace are depending on congress to act swiftly in support of this effort,” she said. Sudan had long been the target of international pressure campaigns, over policies the US described as genocide. “In order to support the transition to a civilian-led democracy, congress must pass legislation to restore Sudan’s sovereign immunity and end its longstanding status as a pariah state,” said John Prendergast founder of The Sentry, which seeks to cut off dirty money that fuels conflict in Africa. The Trump administration has also leaned on Sudan to normalise relations with Israel, following the recent lead of the UAE and Bahrain.
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