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Sudan presidential contender vows to lift US sanctions in first 100 days if elected

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February 15, 2015 (DALLAS, TEXAS) – One of the dozen contenders in Sudan’s presidential elections pledged that he will work with the US administration to lift the decade-long economic sanctions imposed on the country and remove it from the list of states that sponsor terrorism.

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FILE - National Reform Party (NRP) presidential candidate Mohamed El-Hassan (ST)

“This can be done easily. You put laws that conform to international conventions on human rights that would achieve social justice and assert individual freedoms. All laws that restrict freedoms will be abolished,” said Mohamed El-Hassan who is running on the National Reform Party (NRP) ticket.

Washington imposed economic and trade sanctions on Sudan in 1997 in response to its alleged connection to terror networks and human rights abuses. In 2007 it strengthened the embargo, citing abuses in Darfur which it labeled as genocide.

Sudan is also on the US list of states that sponsor terrorism since 1993 even though the two countries have strengthened their counterterrorism cooperation since September 2001 attacks on Washington and New York.

Washington acknowledges Sudan’s cooperation in the fight against terrorism, but attached new conditions to normalizing ties related to the end of the conflicts in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

Sudanese officials however, insist that issues of bilateral relations should be discussed without interfering in Sudan internal affairs.

El-Hassan told Sudan Tribune during an interview that he hopes to establish the rule of law in Sudan that would eventually lead the international community to view the country with respect contrary to its “pariah state status”.

“All countries today respect the United States because it is a nation of laws. Refugees come from all over the world seeking protection there,” said El-Hassan who holds dual US-Sudanese citizenship.

The presidential candidate also vowed to ratify all international treaties that deals with human rights.

El-Hassan expressed sympathy with rebels fighting Khartoum saying they resorted to arms after failing to get their rights in other means and because of a non-responsive military government.

“This is a military government led by a military man even if tried to appear as a democratic one. All laws and legislation are tailored to their needs which is why wars in Sudan have erupted,” he said.

“To stop the wars in Kordofan, Darfur and Blue Nile we need new laws that achieve the aspirations of the Sudanese people,” El-Hassan added.

He also endorsed the call by the National Umma Party (NUP) leader al-Sadiq al-Mahdi to hold a constitutional conference attended by all actors that is to be preceded by a declaration of ceasefire in all fronts.

On terrorism, El-Hassan accused the government of encouraging fundamentalist groups which thrived under the military rule of president Omer Hassan al-Bashir.

“We will have a moderate view of religion. Anyone who breaches [that view] and harms people will be swiftly dealt with by law,” he said.

He declined to spell out his view of Sudan’s relations with Iran which has irked Arab gulf states.

“When I hold office god willing, we will review the links [with Iran] in light of the sweeping reforms I will introduce across the government,” El-Hassan said.

On the apostasy law, El-Hassan said that it is no longer relevant and will repeal it stressing that no one can be forced to adopt a faith he does not believe in.

He also expressed willingness to appoint a female or a non-Muslim Vice President should he ascend to presidency.

El-Hassan’s first foreign visit if elected will be to the US seeking to lift “harmful economic sanctions” expressing optimism that he can start the process of having Washington undoing these sanctions during his first 100 days in office.

Most of Sudan’s major opposition parties have declared that they will boycott the elections scheduled for next April, citing government’s crackdown on political and press freedoms and insist on forming a transitional government that would draft a new constitution and prepare for fair and free elections.

Observers say it is all but certain that incumbent president Omer Hassan al-Bashir will comfortably win a new term and that the ruling National Congress Party will also sweep state and parliamentary elections.

(ST)

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