UN hopes for 'positive' US decision on Sudan sanctions

Khartoum - The United Nations said on Monday it hopes the United States will make a "positive decision" on sanctions against Sudan for allowing more humanitarian aid access across war zones as sought.

President Donald Trump is to decide on Wednesday on whether to permanently lift the US sanctions on Sudan after his predecessor Barack Obama eased the embargo in January but kept Khartoum on a six-month review period.

Obama made the permanent lifting of sanctions dependent on Khartoum's progress on five areas of concern at the end of the review period.

Giving more access to humanitarian workers was one of the five conditions Obama insisted Sudan must meet before the sanctions can be lifted permanently.

On Monday, the United Nations said there had been a "marked improvement" in humanitarian access in the past six months.

"Recent months have seen UN agencies and partners increasingly working in areas that were previously inaccessible, to carry out needs assessments and provide humanitarian assistance," said a UN statement titled "UN hopes for positive decision on US sanctions relief."

It said areas now accessible also included war-torn Darfur's mountainous region of Jebel Marra - a site of intense fighting between Sudanese government forces and rebels for years.

It said access had also been possible in government-controlled areas of Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, but areas held by armed groups remained inaccessible.

Washington imposed a complex set of economic sanctions on Sudan in 1997 for its alleged backing of Islamist militant groups.

Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was killed in a US commando raid in Pakistan in 2011, was based in Khartoum from 1992 to 1996.

Washington also justified the embargo with accusations of scorched-earth tactics by Khartoum against ethnic minority rebels in war-torn Darfur.

At least 300 000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced since a brutal conflict erupted in Darfur in 2003, the United Nations says.

The conflict broke out when ethnic African rebels took up arms against Khartoum's Arab-dominated government, accusing it of marginalising Darfur.

Thousands more were killed in Blue Nile and South Kordofan when similar conflicts broke out in the two states in 2011.

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