Sudan Nears Removal from US Terror List Amid Congress Debate

Washington, Dec 11 (AFP/APP): Sudan is expected shortly to be formally removed from the US blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism but it is still awaiting action by Congress to provide immunity over past attacks.

President Donald Trump announced in October that he was delisting Sudan, a step desperately sought by the nation’s new civilian-backed government as the designation severely impeded foreign investment. As part of a deal, Sudan agreed to $335 million to compensate survivors and victims’ families from the twin 1998 attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, carried out when dictator Omar al-Bashir was welcoming Al-Qaeda, and a 2000 attack on the USS Cole off Yemen’s coast.

Sudan’s transitional government, which took over last year following Bashir’s overthrow, also agreed to recognize Israel, a major goal for Trump, although Khartoum has sought to downplay the connection. Trump sent his notice to Congress on October 26 and, under US law, a country exits the terror list after 45 days unless Congress objects, which it has not. A State Department spokesperson did not confirm the date for Sudan’s formal removal but said it would formally take effect when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signs a notice to be published in the Federal Register.

US lawmakers broadly support the decision but have not reached an agreement on an accompanying goal of Sudan — legally shielding it from any further terrorism claims in US courts. Families of victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks have called on lawmakers to reject the State Department’s proposal, saying they want to pursue legal action against Sudan.

“The September 11 families aren’t asking for any special favours, just to be left alone to pursue their longstanding lawsuit against Sudan and other regional parties for supporting Al-Qaeda so that it could become the international terrorist organization that has murdered so many innocents,” said Jack Quinn, a lawyer for the families.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have been in the forefront of criticizing the State Department arrangement on Sudan’s legal immunity. Schumer and Menendez — who respectively represent New York and New Jersey, home to the bulk of September 11 victims — said they have drafted two proposals, either of which they are ready to pass this month.

The bills “overcome severe problems with the deal the State Department cut with Sudan that have tragically pitted different groups of victims of terrorism against one another,” they said in a statement. The State Department spokesperson said only that the agency was “continuing our discussions” with Menendez.

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