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The Trump administration has eased sanctions on Sudan, a government the U.S. once accused of carrying out a genocide. While Sudan remains an international pariah, the U.S. says it needs to work with Khartoum on some key security matters, including North Korea.
NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.
MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: It was the Obama administration that set the sanctions relief in motion. As a former U.S. envoy on Sudan, Princeton Lyman, explains it the U.S. wasn't getting anywhere with its efforts to pressure Sudan to improve its behavior.
PRINCETON LYMAN: And to engage, you have to put something on the table, too. Sanctions, if they're static, are not very effective.
KELEMEN: Sudan remains on the state sponsors of terrorism list, and its president is still wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur. Lyman, who's with the U.S. Institute of Peace, says these are not nice guys. But he adds, the U.S. wanted inroads with those in Sudan who recognize the country was on the wrong path.
LYMAN: You have to then ask, what is the United States' objective - a collapse of the government in Sudan, a total collapse? It would be a calamity to have a collapsed civil war situation inside of Sudan - next to Libya, next to Egypt.
KELEMEN: Trump administration officials say Sudan has taken significant steps to improve humanitarian access to conflict zones and help U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the region. So it decided Friday to make the temporary sanctions relief permanent. Officials say they will continue to monitor this. And they've added a new wrinkle. They've negotiated assurances from Sudan that it will stop its arms deals with North Korea. What's missing in all of this is any talk about Sudan's human rights record says Jehanne Henry, an Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch.
JEHANNE HENRY: The concerns we have been documenting for years are very much still at play. And we think that lifting sanctions on the basis of pretty much superficial progress on a number of fronts sends the wrong message.
KELEMEN: It makes it look like Sudan is heading in the right direction, but Henry says the same problems remain in place.
HENRY: That's bad laws, very repressive tactics, the use of lethal force to silence protesters, locking people up and torturing them.
KELEMEN: And she's hoping the U.S. will help organizations like hers to press for improvements on that front.
Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.
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