US Prepares to Remove Sudan from Terrorism List

WASHINGTON/DUBAI (Reuters) -
A view of the city of Khartoum, capital of Sudan.

The Trump administration is close to an agreement with Sudan to remove Khartoum from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The deal could also set in motion steps by Sudan toward establishing diplomatic relations with Israel, an American official told Reuters, following similar U.S.-brokered moves in recent weeks by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. But details were still being worked out, the source said.

Preempting a formal announcement, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted on Monday: “GREAT news! New government of Sudan, which is making great progress, agreed to pay $335 MILLION to U.S. terror victims and families. Once deposited, I will lift Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. At long last, JUSTICE for the American people and BIG step for Sudan!”

Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism dates to its toppled ruler Omar al-Bashir and makes it difficult for its transitional government to access urgently needed debt relief and foreign financing.

Many in Sudan say the designation, imposed in 1993 because the United States believed Bashir’s government was supporting terrorist groups, is now undeserved since Bashir was removed last year and Sudan has long cooperated with the United States on counter-terrorism.

A key sticking point in U.S.-Sudan talks has been Sudan’s insistence that any announcement of Khartoum’s de-listing not be explicitly linked to normalization with Israel. Differences remain between Sudanese political and military officials on how far and how fast to go in warming of relations with Israel.

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Khartoum in August the normalization issue should not be linked to Sudan’s removal from the terrorism list.

One possibility, one U.S. official said, would be for Washington to first announce Sudan’s delisting and then leave it to Sudan and Israel to go public later with an agreement on establishing relations.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Asked whether an Israel-Sudan breakthrough was imminent, Israeli Finance Minister Yisrael Katz told Israel’s Army Radio: “There are contacts, accompanied by the Americans, and there is complexity. I hope that the intensive contacts will yield positive fruit.”

Negotiations related to Sudan’s deposit in escrow of a $335 million settlement to victims of al-Qaeda attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 are expected to conclude in the next two days, one of the U.S. government sources said.

After that, the Trump administration would notify Congress of its intent to remove Sudan from the list.