Hamdok: Sudan faces one last hurdle in restoring full ties with US

Sudanese PM says compensation bill from Bashir-era Al Qaeda attacks still needs to be paid

FILE PHOTO: Sudan's prime minister in the transitional government, Abdalla Hamdok, speaks during a Reuters interview in Khartoum, Sudan August 24, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo
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Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said his country had met all but one condition set by the US to be removed from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Shortly after his return on Sunday night from a week in Washington, Mr Hamdok said his trip had been a success.

“We started a new Sudan and a new dawn, and it’s clear that the world is taking this with the same amount of seriousness," he said.

"In fact, if we continue like this, we will be able to shepherd our country to the shores of safety."

Getting off the US terrorism list, which also includes Iran, North Korea and Syria, would pave the way for Sudan to seek restructuring of its foreign debt of $60 billion (Dh220.35bn).

It would also lead to a resumption of badly needed economic aid to the country of about 40 million people.

The last step needed was to honour US court rulings requiring Sudan to pay compensation to victims of the 2000 terrorist attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, and the bombing of US embassies in Nairobi and Addis Ababa in 1998.

“Our aim is to reduce it to a small figure,” Mr Hamdok said.

He said the total compensation of $11bn awarded by the courts had already been whittled down to “hundreds of millions” through negotiations in recent months.

“We are seeking an agreement that immunises the Sudanese state against any future court cases,” Mr Hamdok said.

Sudan and the US agreed last week to upgrade their diplomatic relations by appointing ambassadors for the first time in 23 years.

It was a giant step towards returning Sudan to the international fold after the rule of Omar Al Bashir, the country’s autocratic ruler for 29 years who was removed by the military in April after months of street protests.

But Mr Hamdok made it clear that removing Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism was a process that could take a long time.

He said Sudan had met six of the seven conditions set by the Trump administration for Congress to clear the country’s name.

These were ensuring the delivery of emergency aid to crisis areas; respect for human rights; religious freedom; suspending any military co-operation with North Korea; holding talks to end civil strife in the west and south of the country; and counter-terrorism co-operation.

The US Supreme Court in March prevented American sailors injured in the Cole attack from collecting $314.7 million in damages from the government of Sudan.

The justices overturned a lower court’s decision that allowed the sailors to collect the damages from banks holding Sudanese assets.

The decision represented a major victory for Sudan, which denies that it provided any support to Al Qaeda for the attack in Yemen. Sudan is also accused of supporting Al Qaeda in the bombings of the US embassies.

Beside these attacks, Sudan’s international standing under Mr Al Bashir was hurt by the war between government forces and rebels in the western Darfur region in the 2000s.

About 300,000 people were killed and many more displaced in the violence, leading the International Criminal Court to indict Mr Al Bashir and several of his aides for genocide and crimes against humanity nearly a decade ago.

The former president is in detention in Khartoum while on trial for corruption. He also faces charges related to the 1989 military coup against a freely elected but ineffective government.