US lawmakers on Monday backed legislation granting Sudan legal immunity for past militant attacks, a final step in a historic deal removing Khartoum from Washington’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The text restores Sudan’s sovereign immunity with the exception of litigation already pending in US federal courts related to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, and earmarked hundreds of millions of US dollars in aid to Khartoum.
Sudan was removed from the US state sponsors of terrorism list a week ago, less than two months after the Arab nation pledged to normalize ties with Israel.
The move also promises aid, debt relief and investment to a nation going through a rocky political transition and struggling under a severe economic crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sudan is to receive US$700 million in assistance funds and an additional US$120 million toward the repayment of its debt to the IMF.
As part of the deal, Sudan agreed to pay US$335 million to compensate survivors and victims’ families from the 1998 al-Qaeda twin attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and a 2000 attack by the group on the USS Cole off Yemen’s coast.
Those attacks were carried out after then-Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir had allowed Osama bin Laden sanctuary in Sudan.
Adoption of the legislation is a key, final step to unblocking the money, which Sudan has already put in an escrow account.
The legislation would help Sudan “re-enter the global economy ... promote foreign investment and economic growth in the country, and support the civilian-led transition to democracy,” US Senator Chris Coons said before the bill was passed.
The White House had been pushing for a conclusion in part to show its support for Sudan’s transition two years after a coup that ousted al-Bashir.
It was also aiming to remove any issues that could put in doubt Khartoum’s historic pledge to normalize relations with Israel.
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