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Ghandour plays down calls to keep Sudan on U.S. terror list

Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan, third from left, met with Sudan's foreign minister, Ibrahim Ghandour, fourth from right, in Khartoum on 16 November 2017. (Photo AFP/ Ebrahim Hamid )
February 24, 2018 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour Saturday has minimised the impact of calls by advocacy groups to not remove Sudan from the list of States Sponsors of Terrorism before reforms, pointing to the improvement of bilateral relations between Khartoum and Washington.

In an interview with Ashorooq TV Ghandour said the second phase of the dialogue between the two countries will start next March, adding that Sudan would not accept less than its removal from the terror list.

The dialogue will reach a logical end. Also, the fight against terrorism is incompatible with Sudan’s designation as State Sponsor of Terrorism. It cannot be both a fighter for terrorism and a supporter of him," he stressed.

The minister was reacting to a recent report by Enough Project which said the process is "dramatically ill-timed". Further, it highlights serious concerns about Sudan’s commitment to the five-tracks framework and even questioned Khartoum’s cooperation on counterterrorism.

"U.S. policymakers should seriously consider the potential threats and consequences of a softened U.S. stance with a regime that claims to fight terrorism while empowering extremist groups, including religious extremists that advocate for deadly international terrorist groups from within Sudan,” further said the report.

Ghandour said they expect the escalation of hostile campaigns as the date of the second phase approaches. Nonetheless, he played down its effect pointing that there were similar efforts to prevent the lift of economic sanctions which occurred in October 2017.

"There are political enemies and opposition (forces), but we say there is a mutual desire between the two parties for the full normalization. The matter is not easy, but it is possible, as it was in the last stage," he stressed.

The Sudanese top diplomat, also, said that Sudan has no relationship of any kind with North Korea, and stressed: "America knows that".

On the register of religious freedom, he rejected claims of religious persecution in Sudan and said: "Sudan is one of the best countries in this regard".

"The demolition of churches was done because it was built on the land owned by persons, or the government, and without a license. Therefore they are removed by judicial or administrative decisions.

Several former envoys to Sudan who backed the engagement with Khartoum and called to remove the economic sanctions say the removal from the terror sponsors list should be linked to political reforms leading to more freedoms and respect of human rights in Sudan.

(ST)