After US talks, Sudan sees path to lifting sanctions soon

Sudan’s former President Omar Bashir sits inside a cage at the courthouse where he is facing corruption charges in Khartoum on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 29 September 2019

After US talks, Sudan sees path to lifting sanctions soon

  • The Trump administration suspended talks on normalizing relations with Sudan and demanded that the military hand power to a civilian government

NEW YORK: Sudan’s prime minister said he had held useful talks with US officials while at the UN this week, and expressed hope Khartoum could reach an agreement to be removed from Washington’s state-sponsored terrorism list “very soon.”
Abdalla Hamdok, an economist, was appointed in August as leader of a transition government, vowing to stabilize the country and repair an economy battered by years of US sanctions and government mismanagement during Omar Al-Bashir’s 30-year rule.
But Sudan has so far been unable to tap the International Monetary Fund and World Bank for support because the US still lists the country as a state sponsor of terrorism.
“Coming to the (UN) General Assembly provided us with a huge opportunity to meet many leaders in the American administration,” Hamdok told reporters on Friday after a high-level event to drum up support for his country at the annual gathering of world leaders.
“We had a very useful discussion on the issue of state-sponsored terrorism. We hope as we move forward we will be able to conclude very soon an agreement that would allow Sudan to be delisted.”

FASTFACT

Abdalla Hamdok, an economist, was appointed in August as leader of a transition government, vowing to stabilize the country and repair an economy battered by years of US sanctions.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed support at the Sudan event, held on the sidelines of the General Assembly, for Hamdok’s efforts. He called for the immediate removal of “Sudan’s designation as a terrorist-supporting state and lifting all economic sanctions and mobilizing massive financial support for development to make the current political gains durable.”
Shortages of bread, fuel and medicine coupled with hefty price rises sparked protests that led to the toppling of longtime ruler Bashir in April.
But the transitional government will need US support to address debt issues and attract investment. It will launch a nine-month economic rescue plan in October aimed at curbing rampant inflation while ensuring supplies of basic goods. It is also asking the World Bank for $2 billion.
“The new Sudan that is upholding governance and democracy is not a threat to any nation in the world,” Hamdok said.
A senior US official said in August that Washington would test the commitment of Sudan’s new transitional government to human rights, freedom of speech and humanitarian access before it agrees to remove the country from a list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The US State Department was not immediately available for comment on Friday.
Sudan was designated a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993 under then-US President Bill Clinton, cutting it off from financial markets and strangling its economy, over allegations that Bashir’s Islamist government was supporting terrorism, notably attacks in Kenya and Tanzania.
Washington lifted a 20-year trade embargo against Sudan in 2017 and was in the process of discussions on removing it from the US list when the military stepped in on April 11 to depose Bashir.
The Trump administration suspended talks on normalizing relations with Sudan and demanded that the military hand power to a civilian government.
A senior European diplomat said the US government considered that the new government had to assume the responsibilities of the previous administration.
“I don’t think the Americans are ready yet. They still think that today’s Sudan must pay for the crimes of yesterday’s Sudan when it comes to legal cases out there related to the terrorist attacks in Nairobi or Dar es Salaam,” said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“It’s very hard on the Sudanese, so the key is finding a formula to resolve this,” the diplomat said. “If we can unlock that, then it will open the door for the whole (transitional) process.”


Iraqi protesters block commercial ports, split capital

Updated 19 November 2019

Iraqi protesters block commercial ports, split capital

  • Iraqi civilians are increasingly relying on boats to ferry them across the Tigris River as ongoing standoffs shut key bridges in Baghdad
  • The Jumhuriya, Sinak and Ahrar bridges connect both sides of the city by passing over the river

BAGHDAD: Anti-government protesters blocked access to a second major commercial port in southern Iraq on Tuesday, as bridge closures effectively split the capital in half, causing citizens to rely on boats for transport to reach the other side of the city.
Since anti-government protests began Oct. 1, at least 320 people have been killed and thousands wounded in Baghdad and the mostly Shiite southern provinces. Demonstrators have taken to the streets in the tens of thousands over what they say is widespread corruption, lack of job opportunities and poor basic services, despite the country’s oil wealth.
Security forces have used live ammunition, tear gas and stun guns to repel protesters, tactics that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday would be punished with sanctions.
“We will not stand idle while the corrupt officials make the Iraqi people suffer. Today, I am affirming the United States will use our legal authorities to sanction corrupt individuals that are stealing Iraqis’ wealth and those killing and wounding peaceful protesters,” he said in remarks to reporters in Washington.
“Like the Iraqi people taking to the streets today, our sanctions will not discriminate between religious sect or ethnicity,” he added. “They will simply target those who do wrong to the Iraqi people, no matter who they are.”
Over a dozen protesters blocked the main entrance to Khor Al-Zubair port, halting trade activity as oil tankers and other trucks carrying goods were unable to enter or exit. The port imports commercial goods and materials as well as refined oil products.
Crude from Qayara oil field in Ninewa province, in northern Iraq, is also exported from the port.
Khor Al-Zubair is the second largest port in the country. Protesters had burned tires and cut access to the main Gulf commercial port in Umm Qasr on Monday and continued to block roads Tuesday.
Iraqi civilians are increasingly relying on boats to ferry them across the Tigris River as ongoing standoffs between demonstrators and Iraqi security forces on three key bridges has shut main thoroughfares connecting east and west Baghdad.
The Jumhuriya, Sinak and Ahrar bridges, which have been partially occupied by protesters following days of deadly clashes, connect both sides of the city by passing over the Tigris River. The blockages have left Iraqis who must make the daily commute for work, school and other day-to-day activities with no choice but to rely on river boats.
“After the bridges were cut, all the pressure is on us here,” said Hasan Lilo, a boat owner in the capital. “We offer a reasonable transportation means that helps the people.”