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Sudan FM expects Hillary Clinton to visit Sudan

February 5, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali Karti has said that the U.S Administration had decidedly promised Sudan to lift its name from terrorism-sponsoring blacklist and waive economic sanctions after recognition of the referendum outcome on South Sudan independence.

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton walks with Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti before their bilateral meeting at the State Department on Wednesday in Washington, DC. Tim Sloan / Agence France-Presse

Karti has also revealed that he expects his counterpart US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to visit Sudan once the referendum results are announced and recognized by the government in Khartoum.

Last month, Sudan successfully organized a referendum vote in which the citizens of South Sudan voted almost unanimously for secession from the north. The plebiscite was promised under the US-brokered Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which in 2005 ended more than two decades of north-south civil war.

US officials including President Obama promised a set of incentives to Khartoum if it ensured peaceful referendum and respected it outcome.

Sudan officially announced this month that it would accept the outcome of the vote, ending speculations that it might try to procrastinate on recognition in order to gain concessions from the south and the international community.

There has been a flurry of meetings between US and Sudanese diplomats as Khartoum intensifies efforts to normalize relations with Washington. Karti’s visit to Washington was followed this Wednesday with a visit to Khartoum by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg who held talks with senior state officials and told reporters that the two sides had agreed on a road map to serve common interests.

In an interview with Sudan Radio on Friday, Ali Karti pored over his recent visit to Washington, where he met Hillary Clinton and discussed lifting of economic sanctions and Sudan’s name from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism.

Sudan’s top diplomat admitted that US economic sanctions were adversely affecting his country, saying that Sudan uses “suitcases and bags” to deliver payment of embassy staff in some countries.

Sudan has been under US economic sanctions since 1997 over alleged support of terrorism and recently over the situation in the western region of Darfur, where nearly 300.000 people were killed and millions were displaced since the conflict between government forces and rebel groups erupted in 2003, according to UN figures.

Karti said he had sensed “positive responses” during his dialogue with US congress, state department and homeland security regarding many issues. According to Karti, the US was now discussing ways of relieving Sudan’s external debts.

Sudan has long accused the political will in Washington of derailing its pursuit of galvanizing international support to write off its external debts, which currently stands at ($35.7 billion) according to official figures.

Karti claimed that the US’s official opinion was that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is not the only venue where Sudan’s issues are resolved. “We are now seated in another spot of the table with America,” he added.

Sudan has been in a bind over the ICC which charged President Al-Bashir with masterminding genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Sudan’s western region of Darfur.

Karti further said that his visit had greatly shaken the position of church and advocacy groups profiting from Sudan’s problems.

“However, the road is not festooned with flowers and sweet basils”, the minister said, adding that what Sudan proposed in Washington was “hard to assimilate there.”

“We have made a step forward and now they are in a critical situation because they had built their stature on treating us with superiority.”

Karti argued that Sudan’s cooperation with the US in the field of counterterrorism issues was dictated by vested interests rather than obedience to America.

“We are keen on cleaning our own arena of terrorism and the issue is an internal will that America has nothing to do with.”

He also accused the US of playing a negative role in the implementation of the CPA provisions, claiming that the referendum outcome would have been in favor of unity had the US not poisoned the referendum atmosphere.

Karti further reiterated accusations that the US Administration was not evenhanded with north and south Sudan, saying that the US had supported and better treated its “spoiled boys” in the south.

The minister revealed that US and Sudanese diplomats had agreed to increase shuttle diplomacy in the coming period.

“I am not very optimistic concerning the issue of America but we have nothing to lose if we maintain communication with US decision makers,” he concluded.