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US and Sudan reach ‘common understanding’ over 1998 embassy bombings

/Al Khaleej Today/ – The United States and Sudan have reached a common understanding for an outline agreement to settle compensation claims over the 1998 Al Qaeda bombing of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

“This final agreement will reflect Sudan’s agreement to pay. It would include compensation in connection with claims relating also to non-US nationals killed and injured in the embassy bombings,” US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Tibor Nagy said.

His comments come days after the US Supreme Court ruled that the African nation cannot avoid punitive damages in lawsuits accusing it of complicity in the 1998 Al Qaeda bombings that killed 224 people including 12 Americans.

The ruling reinstates about $826 million out of a total $4.3 billion in punitive damages, said Christopher Curran, a lawyer representing Sudan.

Mr Nagy did not mention a specific amount for the compensations but said those details were being worked out. “We have discussed obviously numbers with the parties involved, but in no way can we make those public yet,” he said.

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal quoted a Congressional source saying “the victims would receive more than $300 million altogether”.

The deal could pave the way for the US to remove Sudan from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, allowing it to tap into international assistance to alleviate the dire economic situation in the country.

The US added Sudan to the list in 1993 and then imposed a trade embargo to punish Khartoum for ties to extremist organisations, Iran and for its role in the genocide in Darfur.

US court rulings have held Sudan partially responsible for the 1998 Al Qaeda bombing of the Kenyan embassy and also for a simultaneous attack on the US embassy in Tanzania.

It is also liable for another Al Qaeda attack in 2000 on the USS Cole in Yemen.

Until shortly before the attacks, Al Qaeda head Osama bin Laden was living in Sudan under the protection of then leader Omar Al Bashir.

Since a mass uprising against the divisive Islamist’s rule last year brought in a rapid change in the country, the new prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, has opened talks with the US to restore ties, appoint ambassadors and resolve the compensation claims.

He said after a visit to the US in December that the Court claims for damages had been negotiated down from billions of dollars to “hundreds of millions”.

“We are seeking an agreement that immunises the Sudanese state against any future court cases,” Mr Hamdok said at the time.

However, cash-strapped Sudan is struggling to provide its people with basic services and goods including medicine, bread and fuel. As well as normalising relations, Mr Hamdok is trying to negotiate an end to long-running civil conflicts, remove the last vestiges of Al Bashir’s rule and stabilise the economy while navigating a power-sharing deal with the military that should result in democratic elections.

Earlier this month, Sudan appointed its first ambassador to the United States for almost a quarter of a century. In December, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the two countries would exchange ambassadors.

The US ambassador would be nominated by President Donald Trump and needs to be confirmed by the US Senate.

The bilateral relations started improving in 2015 under then-president Barack Obama but are not fully normalised. Mr Obama’s quiet engagement with Khartoum loosened some sanctions.

In 2017, the Trump administration lifted a 20-year-old trade embargo on Sudan, and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) opened an office in the country.

Since Mr Hamdok took office, talks on normalising ties have been ongoing.

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Al Khaleej Today
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