The Obama administration on Monday announced that wide-ranging U.S. economic sanctions against Sudan will be extended another year. The action came as U.S. diplomats pressed for a breakthrough on stalled plans for a referendum on southern Sudanese independence in January.
U.S. Sudan envoy Scott Gration notified the Khartoum government of the sanctions decision in the Sudanese capital.
But officials here stressed that the economic penalties would be reviewed, if the Khartoum government takes a cooperative approach on the January referendum and its aftermath.
The north-south Sudanese peace process, as prescribed in the country's 2005 Comprehensive Peace Accord, or CPA, is to culminate with January 9 voting on whether the south is to become independent.
A companion vote is to be held on whether the oil-rich central region of Abiyeh will be part of an independent south.
U.S. envoy Gration and retired senior State Department official Princeton Lyman have been engaged with others, including former South African President Thabo Mbeki, in intensive efforts to clear away remaining obstacles to the voting.
State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters here that he could point to no progress in the latest U.S. diplomacy on the issue. But he said Obama administration officials still believe the Abiyeh and southern regional voting can be held on schedule.
"We continue to believe that a successful referendum on Abiyeh can be accomplished in early January on schedule," said Crowley. "But clearly the parties need to come together, make some decisions, and then take the appropriate actions to prepare not only for that referendum, but also for the one regarding south Sudan."
Problem issues include voter eligibility in Abiyeh, defining the borders of that region, and the division of oil revenue if it becomes part of an independent south.
Spokesman Crowley said Gration, who met Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha among others in Khartoum, would continue his current mission on Tuesday in the southern Sudanese regional capital, Juba.
Officials say he will go to Addis Ababa this week for a meeting on Sudan with diplomats of the East African regional grouping, IGAD.
A senior official who spoke to reporters here said the extension of the U.S. sanctions was a pro forma action and came as no surprise to Sudanese officials.
He said that if the Khartoum government fully implements the CPA and plays a constructive role in the run-up to the January vote and afterward, the administration "will re-evaluate the sanctions."
U.S. sanctions were imposed in 1997 for what was seen as Sudan's support for regional terrorism. They were tightened by the Bush administration in 2006 because of the Khartoum government's complicity in violence in Darfur.