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US and Sudan discuss debt relief and lifting of sanctions

February 12 - 2010 WASHINGTON

(By Radio Dabanga)

Sudan and the US are negotiating the relief of debts and lifting sanctions. The former special representative of the State Department for Sudan, Roger Winter, is worried about the developments behind the scenes. He even warns the US tactics might ‘increase chances for renewed war’.

Sudanese officials met with representatives of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and another delegation with the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) last month. The United States’ presidential envoy to Sudan, Maj-Gen. (ret.) Scott Gration, coordinated the visit with Treasury. The Sudanese  delegation participated in meetings there that one US source called “working-level”. This occurred some ten days prior to an inconclusive 21 January meeting of the Deputies Committee of the president’s National Security Council, which reviewed the subject of US-Sudan relations. OFAC is the Treasury Department office tasked with enforcing sanctions that prevent almost all forms of business between American and Sudanese companies and individuals, with exceptions for specified regions including South Sudan. Washington sources said that the meetings were meant to “describe” the US sanctions rather than alter them in any way. Officials from the US Departments of State, Treasury and Commerce were said to have been present.

Former official Roger Winter commented, “They (OFAC) don’t decide sanctions, OK, but they implement. Now this is the second time that the envoy (Gration) has arranged for senior people from the National Congress Party (NCP), from Khartoum, to come to try to find – from their perspective at least I would assume – to try to find ways around aspects of the sanctions that are problematic for them.” Last June, a high-level NCP delegation was in the US capital for tripartite talks with the Americans and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.

On the Sudanese side, the delegation for the World Bank and IMF meetings included Minister of Finance and National Economy Awad Ahmed Eljaz, Minister of State for Finance Lual Deng, and Central Bank Deputy Governor Badr Eldin Mahmoud, according to an embassy source.

Any major drawdown of US sanctions would likely require a White House decision and cooperation from Congress. Winter, who served in the US Agency for International Development between 2001 and 2006 and also as the deputy secretary of state’s special representative on Sudan, said that he objects to the way the US objectives are being pursued by Gration. He suggested that the special envoy’s tactics are increasing the chance of war, warning “I do believe that the way our special envoy is pursing this can in fact lead to that [a north-south war]. His speech is reckless.”

The meetings with OFAC, in light of this, may not have been the primary aim of the Sudanese diplomacy last month. A Sudanese official told Radio Dabanga that the “technical mission” largely centered on relief of Sudan’s US $36 billion external debt. The most important meetings were those with IMF and World Bank. Seifeldin Omer Yasin, the Embassy of Sudan’s press counsellor said “we’re pushing for the resolution of this issue before the referendum takes place.” He also noted that in matters of counterterrorism his country “has long been and remains an active partner of the United States”.

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