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Sudan Extends Cease-fire by Six Months

FILE - Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is seen during the opening session of the AU summit in Johannesburg, June 14, 2015. He is asking his government to prepare procedures to "accommodate for the positive impact of the United States lifting sanctions."

Sudan said on Sunday it would extend a unilateral cease-fire in fighting with rebels in the country's warring regions to six months, state news agency SUNA reported.

The move comes after the United States said on Friday it would lift a 20-year-old trade embargo against Sudan, but would wait 180 days before doing so to see whether Sudan acts further to improve its human rights record and resolve political and military conflicts, including in warring regions such as Darfur.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir asked the government at a special Cabinet meeting on Sunday to prepare procedures to "accommodate for the positive impact of the United States lifting sanctions," SUNA reported.

Al-Bashir on Jan. 1 had already extended the cease-fire, in place since October, by just one month.

The United States said on Friday it would also unfreeze Sudan's assets and remove financial sanctions as a response to Khartoum's cooperation in fighting Islamic State and other groups.

The latest outbreak of fighting between the army and rebels in Kordofan and Blue Nile broke out in 2011, when adjacent South Sudan declared independence. Conflict in Darfur began in 2003 when mainly non-Arab tribes took up arms against Sudan's Arab-led government.

Sudan previously announced short-term truces in these regions in June and October 2016, which were followed by a fall-off in fighting in the southern Blue Nile and Kordofan regions but continued clashes in Darfur.

Sudan's economic problems have been building since the south seceded in 2011, taking with it three-quarters of oil output, the main source of foreign currency and government income.