Washington is pleased with Khartoum's cooperation against extremist groups, but a peace agreement to end Africa’s longest running civil war would greatly improve the prospects for functioning bilateral relations, an unidentified US State Department official told AFP.
 
“Clearly their cooperation on counter-terrorism has been good,” the official said. “It continues to be going in the right direction. There is a willingness on our part to take a look at that (removing Sudan from the list).”

Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail told the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat in New York this week that US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, had promised to remove Sudan from the list once Khartoum secured peace. 

Upgrade ties
   
The US put Sudan on the list in 1993 because it had given safe haven to Palestinian guerrilla leader Abu Nidal and Carlos the Jackal, who took OPEC ministers hostage at a meeting in Vienna in the 1975.

“You could very quickly upgrade your bilateral relationship and the symbol of that of course is to have an ambassador rather than a charge (d'affaires), so that is something that we could do”

Unidentified US official

The country later played host to Usama bin-Ladin.
 
The other countries on the US terror list are Cuba, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Syria and North Korea. The US has removed only two countries since it began the list in 1979.

The US may be mulling sending an ambassador to Sudan as a sign of improved relations, but as yet there is no clear indication of this.

“You could very quickly upgrade your bilateral relationship and the symbol of that of course is to have an ambassador rather than a charge (d'affaires), so that is something that we could do,” the official said. 

Security agreement
  
The Sudanese government and the rebels from the south signed a security agreement last week which, it is hoped, would pave the way for a more sweeping peace agreement later this year.

More than 1.5 million people have died in the 20-year civil war which has ravaged Africa’s largest country.

“It is time for peace in Sudan”

John Garang

The conflict is complicated by issues including oil, race and ethnicity.

On Wednesday, Sudan's Vice President Ali Osman Taha said his government expected to sign a final peace agreement with the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M), in “several weeks.”

On Tuesday, rebel leader John Garang, leader of the SPLA also, expressed optimism after thousands of his supporters welcomed the signing of the security pact, saying: “It is time for peace in Sudan.”