WASHINGTON, US President Barack Obama has announced the lifting of some economic sanctions against Sudan in recognition of "positive" steps taken to end conflicts inside the country, improve aid access and tackle regional terror threats.

In a letter to Congress released by the White House, Obama said the past six months had seen "a marked reduction in offensive military activity, culminating in a pledge to maintain a cessation of hostilities in conflict areas in Sudan."

The letter recognized "steps toward the improvement of humanitarian access throughout Sudan, as well as cooperation with the United States on addressing regional conflicts and the threat of terrorism."

The move in the last days of the Obama administration will however will be delayed by 180 days to see whether Sudan acts further to improve its human rights record, and resolve political and military conflicts, including in Darfur.

That leaves the final decision of sanctions relief, after the review period, to President-elect Donald Trump and his secretary of state, who is likely to be Rex Tillerson, a former oil executive.

"Sudan has long expressed a desire to get out from under sanctions, as well as other restrictions that the United States has imposed on Sudan going back 20 years," a senior administration official said.

"Over the past two years we have looked for a way to engage with Sudan in a way we could overcome some of the lack of trust of the past," the official said on a conference call with reporters, adding that talks with Khartoum had intensified over the past six months.

Trump's transition team had been briefed on the move, the official said, adding that the measures do not affect Sudan's label as a state sponsor of terrorism nor does it impact sanctions tied to Khartoum's role in the Darfur conflict.

The sanctions relief is expected to impact businesses that deal with agriculture, import-export services, transportation, technology and medical equipment, and oil, the official said.

Sudan's foreign ministry welcomed the move, calling it an "important positive development in bilateral relations between Sudan and the United States."

The ministry said it hoped further cooperation would allow Sudan to be removed from the U.S. list of states sponsoring terrorism.

The United States first imposed sanctions on Sudan in 1997, including a trade embargo and blocking the government's assets, for human rights violations and terrorism concerns. It layered on more sanctions in 2006 for what it said was complicity in the violence in Darfur.


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