U.S. could soon take Sudan off state sponsors of terrorism list: officials

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Washington (Reuters) – The Trump administration is close to an agreement with Sudan to remove Khartoum from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and an announcement could be made in coming days, two U.S. officials said on Monday.

The deal could also set in motion steps by Sudan toward establishing diplomatic relations with Israel, one of the officials 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.

Rapprochement between Israel and another Arab country would give U.S. President Donald Trump an opportunity to tout a new diplomatic achievement as he seeks re-election on Nov. 3.

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 see this as 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 forging relations.

The UAE and fellow Gulf state Bahrain in September became the first Arab states in a quarter of a century to sign agreements to establish formal ties with Israel.

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

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.

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