- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Sudanese government is rejecting a set of incentives delivered over the weekend from U.S. special envoy Scott Gration that included an offer to lift sanctions.

Speaking to reporters in the capital, Khartoum, Ghazi Salaheddine Atabani, an adviser to President Omar Bashir, said he was rejecting “U.S. charity” toward his country and was interested in a “normal relationship.”

Over the weekend, Mr. Gration presented a series of incentives to the Muslim government in Khartoum to secure the north’s cooperation in a referendum scheduled for January that will give the majority Christian and animist population in the south a chance to vote for secession. Most observers expect the south will vote to secede from the north and form an independent state that will contain most of the country’s oil reserves.

The referendum was scheduled as part of an agreement brokered by the Bush administration in 2005 between the north and south that ended a civil war that raged for more than 20 years.

“We are not interested in charity; we are interested in normal relations,” Mr. Atabani said, according to news reports. “We haven’t received any official document from the U.S. side stating these incentives and disincentives, but we reject this kind of language altogether.”

The State Department released a fact sheet for the press this week that outlined those incentives. They include lifting U.S. sanctions on Sudan’s oil sector and taking steps to remove the country from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Sudan, which provided intelligence files to the CIA on al Qaeda after the Sept. 11 attacks, has long said that it should be removed from the terrorism list. Osama bin Laden was based in Sudan in the early 1990s but fled to Afghanistan in 1996.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Mr. Gration said, “With only 114 days left before the referendum, there’s a lot of work that has to be done, and this is really a make-or-break period for Sudan.”

He added, “We must ensure that the parties make those tough decisions to find agreements, to implement those things that have to be done so that there can be a peaceful and an on-time referendum, and also to avoid the potential for war.”

Mr. Gration, since taking his post as the special envoy for President Obama to Sudan, has tried to coax Lt. Gen. Bashir to allow humanitarian workers into independent displacement camps in Darfur. In this same period, the International Criminal Court indicted Gen. Bashir for crimes against humanity for his government’s role in the war against Darfuri villages five years ago.

Mr. Gration on Wednesday said, “In the north, I described a pathway to normalization of relationships between the United States and Sudan. I made it clear that there was also a wide range of consequences that could be deployed if the situation in Sudan deteriorated or if they failed to make progress.”

The prospect of failure could reignite a north-south civil war in Sudan. The U.N. Security Council issued a statement Wednesday calling “for the parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to take urgent action to facilitate peaceful and on-time referenda that reflect the will of the Sudanese people, to respect their results, and to resolve key remaining post-referenda issues.”

On Sept. 24, Mr. Obama is scheduled to participate in a high-level U.N. meeting on Sudan.

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