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US urged to take Sudan off its terror blacklist too

Top US envoy in Khartoum, Charge D'affaires Steven Koutsis, speaks during a press conference at the US Embassy on Saturday, a day after Washington lifted its 20-year-old trade embargo imposed on Sudan. (AFP)
KHARTOUM: Sudan has called for Washington to take the country off its blacklist of state terror sponsors while the US said Saturday that conditions have to be “right” for holding talks with Khartoum on removing it from Washington’s blacklist of state sponsors of “terrorism.”
On Friday, Khartoum hailed Washington’s decision to end the sanctions as a “positive decision,” but expressed disappointment at not being removed from the blacklist.
Earlier Friday, Washington announced it was ending the embargo, citing improvements made by Sudan in its human rights record.
“The leaders of Sudan, the government of Sudan and the people of Sudan welcome the positive decision taken by American President Donald Trump of removing the economic sanctions completely,” the official SUNA news agency quoted a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry.
The US decision came after months of diplomatic talks between the two countries that began during the tenure of former US President Barack Obama.
The ministry said Friday’s “historic” decision will further help Sudan cooperate with the US on “issues of international peace and security, illegal immigration, human trafficking and fighting terrorism.”
Sudan is looking forward to building “a normal relation with the United States, but wants its name to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism as there is no reason to have Sudan in that list,” the ministry statement said.
Though Washington is ending the trade embargo, it did not drop Sudan from its state terror blacklist.
Washington first imposed the sanctions in 1997 over Khartoum’s alleged support to militant groups. Now slain Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden lived in Sudan between 1992 to 1996.
Following a significant improvement in relations, Obama eased the sanctions in January before leaving office with a view to lifting them completely after a six month review.
But in July, Trump extended the review period to Oct. 12. On Friday his administration decided to lift the embargo permanently.
Time not yet
US Charge d’Affaires to Khartoum Steven Koutsis said Saturday that conditions have to be “right” for holding talks with Khartoum on removing it from Washington’s blacklist of state sponsors of “terrorism,” a consistent demand by Khartoum in return for cooperating with US intelligence agencies in fighting “terrorism.”
“This is something that both sides are keenly willing to discuss, but we have to be certain that conditions are right for discussions to remove (Sudan) from the list,” Koutsis said at a press conference at the US mission in Khartoum.
“The government of Sudan knows fully well what it has to do to remove from the list and we hope that those conditions will come soon,” he said, without elaborating on what the conditions were.
“Discussion on removing from the state sponsors of terror was not part of our engagement under the five-track plan,” Koutsis said, referring to the five conditions that Washington had insisted that Khartoum meet in return for ending the trade embargo.
“If you are talking about a dialogue on this issue it has not happened yet.”
Khartoum insists that there is “no reason” for it to be on the blacklist as it has cooperated with US intelligence agencies in fighting “terrorism” in the region, a claim acknowledged even by the US State Department.