Sudanese president tells U.S. envoy that sanctions against Khartoum should be lifted

Sudan's president urged Washington to lift eight-year old sanctions against his regime and the United States was considering the request, a visiting U.S. official said Saturday.

President Omar el-Bashir's call came during a meeting with Jendayi Frazer, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, at the end of the American envoy's two-day trip to Africa's largest country.

Frazer told reporters in Khartoum that el-Bashir called for an end to the sanctions regime, while Sudan's official news agency quoted the U.S. envoy as saying the Bush administration would consider lifting the embargo, "especially economic sanctions."

In October 1997, the United States imposed comprehensive economic, trade, and financial sanctions against Sudan in response to its alleged connection to terror networks and human rights abuses. Further sanctions, particularly on weapons, have been imposed since the 2003 outbreak of violence in the western Darfur region.

Relations have warmed between Washington and Khartoum since the January signing of a peace deal to end the 21-year southern civil war and Sudan's improved cooperation in the war on terror. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Sudanese officials here in July, during which they reiterated calls for the sanctions to be lifted.

But the United States has maintained pressure on Sudan over its alleged role in supporting Arab militias known as the Janjaweed in a campaign of murder, rape and violence on African tribes people in Darfur. The United Nations estimates that at least 180,000 people have died, mainly through hunger and famine, while several million have been displaced.

Frazer said Washington's priority was to "continue concentrating on ending the Darfur crisis through creating suitable atmosphere for political dialogue, extending humanitarian assistance."

On Thursday, Sudan's government and Darfur rebels ended a sixth round of African Union-brokered peace talks in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, and agreed to reconvene in a month. The AU has deployed peacekeeping troops to Darfur to monitor a shaky cease-fire deal.

Frazer called on the warring sides to "abide by the cease-fire and work to reach a political solution at Abuja negotiation. That solution is necessary."

The United States is the largest donor to Sudan with US $1.9 billion (Ђ1.6 billion) and the international donor community will continue fulfilling pledges as long as Sudan's new government keeps implementing the January peace deal, said Frazer who also traveled to southern Sudan to meet leaders there.

The peace deal provided for an autonomous south with its own army, national power and wealth sharing, religious freedom and a new constitution during a six-year interim period. After those six years, the 10 southern states will hold a referendum on independence.

Meanwhile, the United Nations' special rapporteur for human rights in Sudan, Dr. Sima Samar, said improving Sudan's human rights situation needed extensive work from the government and other parties.

Samar said Darfurian women were being raped despite insufficient government measures to confront ethnic attacks and called on Sudanese authorities to provide more security for the displaced people in Darfur's camps, AP reported. V.A.

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