U.S. could remove Sudan from terror list

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The United States has conditioned its willingness to accelerate the process of removing Sudan from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism provided that Sudan fully implements its obligations under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), including preparing and conducting a January 9, 2011, referendum in southern Sudan and respecting the referendum results.

According to senior Obama administration officials, Sudan’s compliance with its 2005 obligations will “move up our readiness to rescind the designation of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism as early as July 2011.”

The officials spoke to reporters via teleconference November 7 and asked not to be identified. They said U.S. Senator John Kerry, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reinforced the proposal on behalf of President Obama to Sudanese leaders in recent meetings he held in the region.

“This is a part of our ongoing commitment to do everything that we can to ensure that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement is fully implemented, the referendum is carried out on time and is credible on January 9,” an official said.

Sudan has been listed as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1993 due to its links with international terrorist organizations. Terrorist leaders including Carlos the Jackal, Osama bin Laden and Abu Nidal resided in Khartoum during the 1980s and 1990s. The designation prohibits Sudan from buying or receiving U.S. armaments and from receiving any U.S. economic assistance, in addition to other restrictions.

Along with fully implementing the CPA, the senior officials said Sudan will also need to “live up to all of the legal conditions required under law” for it to be taken off the state sponsors list, such as “not support[ing] international terrorism for the preceding six months” and giving “assurances that they will not resume providing that kind of support to international terrorism.”

An official noted that the George W. Bush administration took similar actions to remove North Korea and Libya from the state sponsors list during its tenure.

Although the U.S. offer decouples Sudan’s terrorism designation from the humanitarian and political crisis in Darfur, a senior official noted that comprehensive sanctions enacted by the U.S. Congress in 2003 and 2004 will remain until the Darfur crisis is resolved.

“The U.S. government and the international community expect to see … no attacks on civilians, humanitarian access, no impeding of [the United Nations Mission in Darfur], and, obviously, we will continue to watch those steps very clearly,” the official said.

“There is no way of getting long-term debt relief without the resolution of Darfur, or final improvement of relations to exchange of ambassadors and that sort of thing without improvement in Darfur,” a second official said.

The Obama administration’s offer to Sudan reflects its commitment that “we have to do everything that we possibly can to see that the referenda [in southern Sudan and Abyei] … are held on time and that we do as much as we possibly can to ensure that the outcome is a peaceful one rather than a resumption of conflict,” an official said.

U.S. officials have heard through African leaders with high-level contacts in Khartoum that the U.S. offer “might be a step that would be useful in convincing the Sudanese to have an on-time referendum and one that is credible,” according to an official.

“It’s very clear the steps that the government of Sudan has to take to meet the criteria to be taken off the state sponsors of terrorism list, and it’s our hope that they take those steps,” the official said.

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