Monday, July 9, 2018

Sudan appoints former spy chief as top envoy to US

 

Khartoum, Sudan. President Omar al-Bashir Sunday appointed Sudan's former spy chief as Khartoum's top envoy to Washington, state media reported, in a bid to boost bilateral relations that have improved since last year.

Mohamed Atta, who formerly headed the country's powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), has been appointed as Khartoum's new charge d'affaires to Washington, the official SUNA news agency reported.

"President Bashir has asked me to work hard to improve relations between the two countries," SUNA quoted Atta as saying after he met Bashir earlier on Sunday.

Atta's appointment comes at a time when relations between Khartoum and Washington have entered into a new phase after last year's lifting of decades old US sanctions on Sudan.

Although the sanctions were lifted, Washington kept the East African country in its "state sponsors of terrorism" list along with North Korea, Iran and Syria.

US and Sudanese officials are now engaged in discussions on how to remove Khartoum from the blacklist, and Atta is expected to play a crucial role in these negotiations.

On July 4, US Charge D'Affaires in Khartoum, Steven Koutsis, vowed to work with Sudan to remove it from the US "terrorism" blacklist.

"I pledge to you that this embassy will work with all its energy and focus to create the conditions for Sudan's removal from the list," he said at a ceremony marking the July 4 celebration at the US mission in Khartoum.

Atta had previously travelled to Washington when he was head of NISS and had been part of Khartoum's team that negotiated the lifting of trade embargo.

The US had imposed sanctions on Khartoum in 1997 over its alleged support to Islamist militants. Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden lived in Sudan between 1992 to 1996.

In February, Bashir had removed Atta from his post as head of NISS.

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