Trump: US to remove Sudan from list of state terrorism sponsors after payment to victims

WASHINGTON/DUBAI/KHARTOUM (Reuters) – President Donald Trump announced on Monday that the United States would remove Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism

as soon as Khartoum sets aside the $335 million it has agreed to pay to American victims of militant attacks and their families.

The deal could also put Sudan on the move towards establishing diplomatic ties with Israel, a US official told Reuters, following similar US-brokered moves by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Details were still being worked out, the source said.

Although Trump made no mention of Israel in his tweet announcing the breakthrough with Sudan, a rapprochement between Israel and another Arab country would give Trump yet another diplomatic achievement as he seeks re-election on Nov. 3.

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

Many in Sudan say the designation, imposed in 1993 because Washington believed Bashir supported militant groups, has become obsolete since he was removed from office last year and Sudan has long cooperated in the fight against terrorism.

The U.S.-Sudanese talks have focused on funds Washington wants Khartoum to escrow to be paid out to victims of al-Qaeda attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, U.S. government sources said.

“Good news! Sudan’s new government, making great strides, has agreed to pay $335 MILLION to victims and families of American terrorism,” Trump tweeted. “Once deposed, I will remove Sudan from the list state sponsors of terrorism.”

A Sudanese government source said Khartoum was ready to pay compensation to victims of the US embassy bombing.

“Thank you very much, President Trump!” tweeted Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. “We look forward to your formal notification to Congress rescinding Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.”

While Trump can act alone to remove Sudan from the list, congressional legislation is needed to ensure the flow of payments to embassy bombing victims and their families — and immediate action on Capitol Hill is a long way off. to be certain.

Urging Congress to act, Edith Bartley, spokeswoman for the Americans killed in the Nairobi bombing, said the funds would fulfill three successive presidents’ commitment “to condition normalization (with the United States) on the ‘compensation for survivors and families of those lost to acts of violence’. terror.”

ISRAEL WAS A STREAKING POINT

Sudan’s insistence that any announcement of Khartoum’s delisting should not be explicitly linked to normalization with Israel has been a key sticking point in the negotiations. Differences remain between Sudanese political and military leaders on how far to go in warming relations with Israel.

Hamdok, who leads the country with the military in a transition since Bashir’s overthrow, told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Khartoum in August that the issue of normalization should not be tied to Sudan’s withdrawal from the terrorism list.

One possibility, a US official said, would be that Washington would leave it to Sudan and Israel to release an agreement on opening up relations later, possibly in the next few days.

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in September became the first Arab states in a quarter century to accept formal ties with Israel, forged in large part by shared fears over Iran.

Asked about the impending Israeli-Sudanese breakthrough, Israeli Finance Minister Israel Katz told Israel Army Radio:

“I hope the intensive contacts will bear positive fruit.”

The Trump administration, which is also expected to offer economic aid, must now notify the US Congress of its intention to remove Sudan from the terrorism list.

A remaining hurdle is that Congress must pass legislation restoring Sudan’s sovereign immunity, a shield against future legal claims for past attacks once it pays the compensation it already owes. Sudan had lost this protection due to the terrorism designation.

Echoing the concerns of other lawmakers, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez said in an Oct. 15 letter to Pompeo that “corrective action” was needed to ensure the deal doesn’t make it harder for victims of the terrorist attacks. September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda to sue. for the damage. Sudan has been accused of harboring al-Qaeda leaders.

Reporting by Matt Spetalnick, Nafisa Eltahir and Khalid Abdelaziz; Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem and David Morgan in Washington; Written by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Howard Goller and Peter Cooney

Thelma J. Longworth