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U.S. confirms preliminary settlement agreement with Sudan to settle 1998 embassy bombings

Tibor Nagy, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa (Reuters photo)May 21, 2020 (WASHINGTON) - The United States on Thursday confirmed reports that a preliminary agreement was reached with Sudan to settle lawsuits related to the 1998 twin bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Nairobi.

"I can confirm that we have reached a common understanding with Sudan – and my words here are very careful – on the contours of a future bilateral claims agreement, on the contours of such an agreement," the U.S. Assistant Secretary of state for African Affairs Tibor Nagy told reporters in a phone briefing today.

"[T]his final agreement will reflect Sudan’s agreement to pay – it would include compensation in connection with claims relating also to non-U.S. nationals killed and injured in the embassy bombings," he added. 

Nagy stressed that the latter has been "a high priority" for Washington "given that these foreign nationals were our employees and contractors".

The official, however, refused to explain the next steps left to finalize the agreement and whether it means removing Sudan from the list of states that sponsor terrorism is now imminent.

"The termination of the designation of state sponsors of terrorism is not going to be flipping a switch. It is a process involving several branches of the U.S. Government" he said.

Earlier this week the U.S. supreme court revived the possibility of collecting $4.3 punitive damage claims from Sudan on the embassy bombings.

U.S. courts held Sudan liable because in the 1990’s it hosted al-Qaeda terrorists who carried out the attacks.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) which was the first outlet to report the settlement agreement quoted a congressional source as saying that the victims would receive more than $300 million altogether as part of the settlement.

But African victims are reportedly resistant to the deal given the disparity in compensation with American litigants.

It is not clear how a settlement would proceed given their objections.

Nagy acknowledged that after the supreme court ruling "litigation related to those claims is going to continue" but that they "remain absolutely committed to our efforts to work with Sudan to achieve a resolution of the claims related to the 1998 East Africa bombings".

Nagy did not address how Sudan will pay for the settlement amid suggestions that the Arab Gulf states have been reluctant to step in.

Sudan is unlikely to sign off on a settlement without firm guarantees from the US on delisting.

The U.S. administration of President Bill Clinton added Sudan to its list of state sponsors of terrorism in 1993 over allegations that then-President Omar al-Bashir’s Islamist government was supporting terrorist groups.

The designation makes Sudan technically ineligible for debt relief and financing from the IMF and World Bank despite being eligible for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) plan.

(ST)