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Sudanese government reaches settlement deal with USS Cole victims

Sudan’s transitional government said Thursday it has reached a settlement with families of the victims of the 2000 attack on USS Cole in Yemen, in a bid to have the African country taken off the US terrorism list and improve relations with the West.
The settlement is the latest step from Khartoum to end its international pariah status. Earlier this week, Sudan’s provisional rulers said they had agreed to hand over longtime autocrat Omar Al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court to face trial on charges of war crimes and genocide during the fighting in the western Darfur region.
At the time of the Oct. 12, 2000 attack in the Yemeni port of Aden that killed 17 sailors and wounded more than three dozen others, Sudan was accused of providing support to Al-Qaeda, which claimed responsibility for the attack.
Today, Sudan’s interim authorities are desperate to have its listing by the US as a state sponsor of terror lifted, in order to receive an injection of badly needed funds from international lending institutions. Sudan’s justice ministry said that the agreement was signed with the victims’ families last Friday in Washington but its statement gave no details of the settlement.
There was no immediate comment from Washington.
Sudan’s information minister and interim government spokesman, Faisal Saleh, told The Associated Press over the phone from Khartoum that Justice Minister Nasr-Eddin Abdul-Bari had traveled last week to Washington to sign the deal, which included compensations for both those wounded and the families of those killed in the attack.
He said the figures could not be disclosed because the Sudanese government is still in negotiations to reach a similar settlement with families of victims of the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. More than 200 people were killed in the attacks and more than 1,000 were wounded.
Saleh said, however, that the American side is free to disclose the amount if it wishes to do so.
The initial figures on the table had been in the billions, he added, but Sudan’s interim government had “inherited an empty treasury.” He said he hoped the international community would be sympathetic to the country’s situation.
“We expect the United States and the world to understand and to be supportive instead of imposing more obstacles,” he said.
For Sudan, being removed from the US terror list will end the country’s economic isolation and allow it to attract much-need loans from international financial institutions in order to rebuild the economy after the popular uprising last year that toppled Al-Bashir and installed the joint civilian-military sovereign council.
The new Sudanese rulers say they were not responsible for the attack on USS Cole and that they had negotiated the deal out of their “keenness to resolve old terror claims inherited from the ousted regime” of Al-Bashir.
In the USS Cole attack, two men in a boat detonated explosives alongside the US destroyer as it was refueling in Aden. The victims’ families, along with the wounded sailors, had sued the Sudanese government in US courts demanding compensations.
In 2012, a federal judge issued a judgment of nearly $315 million against Sudan but last March, the US Supreme Court overturned that ruling on the grounds that Sudan had not been properly notified of the lawsuit.

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