July 12, 2017 / 3:20 PM / a month ago

Sudan halts talks with U.S. after decision on lifting sanctions postponed

FILE PHOTO: Sudan's President Omar Ahmed al-Bashir looks on during Sudan's Saudi Air Force show during the final training exercise between the Saudi Air Force and Sudanese Air Forces at Merowe Airport in Merowe, Northern State, Sudan April 9, 2017.Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has halted until Oct. 12 the work of a committee formed with the United States to negotiate relief from U.S. sanctions, the Sudanese state news agency SUNA said on Wednesday.

The move comes one day after the United States said it had postponed for three months a decision on whether to permanently lift sanctions imposed on Sudan, partly over concern about human rights issues.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama temporarily lifted the 20-year sanctions for six months in January, suspending a trade embargo, unfreezing assets and removing financial sanctions that have hampered the country's economy.

But to earn permanent relief, Sudan was required to comply with five demands. They included resolving internal military conflicts in areas such as war-torn Darfur, cooperating on counter-terrorism and improving access to humanitarian aid.

"We regret the issuing of this decision, which came after a long period of dialogue and interaction with the U.S.," Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour said on Wednesday after the decision on lifting sanctions was postponed.

The North African country wants to regain access to the global banking system, potentially unlocking badly needed trade and foreign investment. It needs both to cope with an inflation rate of 35 percent and a shortage of foreign currency that has crippled its ability to purchase from abroad.

"European countries, regional and international institutions and some American institutions have recognised that Sudan has fulfilled the five-track plan in whole and this has been confirmed in technical meetings with the American side," Ghandour said, referring to the list of U.S. demands.

Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Additional reporting by Ali Abdelaty in CAIRO; Writing by Eric Knecht and Lisa Barrington, editing by Larry King

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