US ends Sudan's pariah status by removing country from terrorism list

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Announcement by US embassy in Khartoum clears way for Sudan to secure international loans

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo (left), greets the Sudanese prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, in Khartoum in August.
The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo (left), greets the Sudanese prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, in Khartoum in August. Photograph: Office of Sudan's Prime Minister/AFP/Getty Images
The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo (left), greets the Sudanese prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, in Khartoum in August. Photograph: Office of Sudan's Prime Minister/AFP/Getty Images
Associated Press in Cairo

Last modified on Mon 14 Dec 2020 08.11 EST

Donald Trump’s outgoing administration has removed Sudan from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, a move that could help the African country get international loans to revive its battered economy and end its pariah status.

The US embassy in Khartoum said in a Facebook post that the removal of Sudan was effective as of Monday, and that a notification to that effect, signed by the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, would be published in the federal register. It said the 45-day congressional notification period has lapsed.

The designation of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism dates back to the 1990s, when Sudan briefly hosted the al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and other wanted militants. The country was also believed to have served as a pipeline for Iran to supply weapons to Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

Delisting Sudan is also a key incentive for the government in Khartoum to normalise relations with Israel. The two countries have agreed to have full diplomatic ties, making Sudan the third Arab state – after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – to move to normalise relations with Israel this year. After Sudan, Morocco also established diplomatic ties with Israel.

Gen Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, hailed the move as a “historic decision” by Trump’s administration. He tweeted on Monday that delisting Sudan would “contribute to supporting the democratic transition”.

Sudan is on a fragile transition to democracy after an uprising that led to the military’s ousting of the former autocratic president Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. The country is now ruled by a joint military and civilian government that seeks better ties with Washington and the west.

In October, Trump announced he would remove Sudan from the list if it followed through on its pledge to pay $335m to American victims of terrorism and their families. Sudan has agreed to pay compensation for victims of the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, attacks carried out by al-Qaida while Bin Laden was living in Sudan.

According to the October announcement, once the compensation money was deposited, Trump was to sign an order removing Sudan from the terrorism list on which it has languished under heavy American sanctions for 27 years.

Since Trump’s announcement, the Sudanese government also inked an agreement with the US that could in effect stop any future compensation claims being filed against the African country in US courts.

That deal restores in US courts what is known as sovereign immunity to the Sudanese government. It would, however, enter into force after the US Congress passes legislation needed to implement the agreement. Khartoum has said the $335m in compensation money would be held in an escrow account until then.