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Security Council lifts sanctions on Sudan

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UNITED NATIONS — A green light from the United States Friday ended a 5-year-old U.N. sanctions regime against Sudan, although Washington is still keeping the country on its terrorist watch list.

Signaling its continued concern, the United States abstained on the Security Council vote to end diplomatic and aviation sanctions imposed after a 1995 assassination attempt against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The 14 other members voted to immediately lift the embargoes, which were never actively enforced.

The council postponed a Sept. 13 discussion on Sudan, which was to be followed by a vote, because of the terrorist attacks two days earlier on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Earlier this week, the United States disclosed that Sudan has quietly rounded up as many as 30 foreign extremists since the attacks. On Friday, the U.S. Embassy in Sudan released a message from Secretary of State Colin Powell which said the United States will enlist Sudan's assistance in its campaign to eliminate "all forms of international terrorism."

Sudan is on the State Department's list of countries that support terrorism, but President Omar el-Bashir's government has been working with U.S. anti-terrorism experts since March 2000 and was quick to condemn the Sept. 11 attacks.

After Friday's Security Council vote, Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Elfatih Mohamed Erwa assured members that the resolution "represents a strong impetus for my country to proceed forward and to cooperate in order to eliminate terrorism, and to engage with the mainstream international community's work and its organs."

The United States hasn't asked to use Sudanese military bases, "but we offer . . . genuine cooperation in combating terrorism," Erwa said.

U.S. deputy ambassador James Cunningham told the council "Sudan has recently apprehended extremists ... whose activities may have contributed to international terrorism" and was seriously discussing ways to combat terrorism with U.S. officials.

The sanctions imposed in 1996 were intended to compel Sudan to hand over the gunmen who fired on Mubarak's car on June 26, 1995, while he was visiting Ethiopia. The suspects were believed to have fled to Sudan.

The council initially ordered U.N. members to reduce Sudan's diplomatic presence in their countries and to restrict the movement of its officials and then banned Sudanese planes from U.N. member states.

Cunningham said that while the United States believes Sudan has taken "substantial steps" to meet the sanction demands, the suspects were not turned over. They are no longer believed to be in Sudan.

In addition, Cunningham said, the United States has continuing concerns about Sudan's 18-year civil war which has created enormous suffering, displacement and human rights abuses including slavery.

Sudan believes the lifting of sanctions will "open the door widely" and allow it to work with Washington to remove itself from the U.S. list of nations sponsoring terrorism, the Sudanese ambassador said.