Home | News    Wednesday 22 October 2003

Powell: U.S. Could End Sanctions Against Sudan

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Steps to Stop Civil War, Curb Anti-Israeli Militants Would Have Proceed U.S. Actions

By Glenn Kessler, The Washington Post

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct. 22 — Secretary of State Colin L. Powell dangled the prospect Tuesday of renewed diplomatic ties and a lifting of sanctions against Sudan if the two sides in a long-running civil war reach an agreement and the Sudanese government moves against anti-Israeli militant groups operating in its capital.

"We are looking at the whole range of restrictions, sanctions, listings that exist with respect to Sudan and they are considerable," Powell told reporters as he flew to Kenya, where peace talks are being held. "There is whole body of law that has come up over time with respect to Sudan."

Powell said that a peace deal, combined with "some more movement on counterterrorism concerns," would lead to "really opening a new day in our relationship with the Sudan." He declined to detail all of the counterterrorism measures that the United States is seeking from Sudan, but he said closing the Khartoum offices of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and Palestinian Islamic Jihad "would be a nice step for them to take."

Sudan is listed by the State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism. But Powell, indicating it might be removed from the list, said the government has demonstrated increasing willingness to assist the United States on terrorism issues.

"We’ve engaged them and have seen them become more cooperative, essentially moving away from some of their actions and patterns of the past," Powell said. "We think there is still more that they can do. We sense that they understand it is in their interest and to their benefit to move in this direction."

There has been no U.S. ambassador in Khartoum since 1998, when the Clinton administration launched cruise missiles against Sudan, which then harbored members of al Qaeda, in the wake of the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Sweeping economic, trade and financial sanctions are levied against Sudan since the mid-1990s because of links to terrorist organizations.

Upon arrival here, Powell toured the new U.S. Embassy and then met with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and other senior officials.

Powell will meet Wednesday with negotiators from the central Sudan government and the rebels that have waged a 20-year war, including First Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) leader John Garang. The warring parties, settling questions about command of the military, signed a crucial security agreement last month. But outstanding issues involving power and wealth sharing and three geographic areas must still be resolved.

The conflict, which has extended nearly half a century with brief periods of peace, has pitted the Muslim northern part of the country against the mostly animist and Christian South. Powell acknowledged that Christian evangelical groups — a key part of President Bush’s political base — have focused attention on the conflict in Washington and the administration has strived to show "we have tried very hard to solve the problem."

Under a previous agreement, once a final deal is signed, the southern part of Sudan will have a six-year period of self-rule before holding a referendum on whether to remain part of Sudan or to become independent.

Powell believes the most difficult issues already have been settled, and so he was traveling to Kenya to "really impress upon them that after years of most horrible warfare and the loss of 2 million lives, now that we have come this far, let’s finish it, let’s kick it in, let’s throw it into high gear. Let’s not miss this opportunity."

The negotiators have suggested a draft peace deal is possible by the end of the month, leading to speculation that Powell’s visit would coincide with an announcement of an agreement. But Powell insisted he was "not here to preside at a ceremony; I am here to give energy to this process."

Powell said the power sharing negotiations needed to resolve issues such as the future political role of the rebel leaders, the make-up of the parliament and the creation of an enclave for non-Muslims in the capital. The wealth-sharing talks center on how to distribute oil revenues from the central government to other regions. Investors have been wary of Sudan, and the government is eager to tap the country’s potential oil wealth once a deal is reached.

Powell said he had discussed the effort to end Africa’s longest running conflict with Bush while they were both in Bangkok during the past weekend for an economic forum. "He is anxious to see it resolved" and wants to "recognize the achievement in an appropriate manner," Powell said.

Asked if that meant a signing ceremony on the White House lawn, Powell smiled and replied, "I chose my words very carefully."

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