The new U.S. special envoy to Sudan said he hopes the relationship between the two countries will be one of "friendship and cooperation."

Scott Gration arrived in Khartoum on Thursday and said he had come with "hands open."  He said it will be up to the Sudanese government to determine how it wants to continue with the relationship.

Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman Ali Sadiq said Sudan recognizes the importance of the United States, and wants to maintain "normal relations" with the country.

This is Gration's first visit to Sudan since being appointed special envoy.  

The trip is part of the U.S. government's attempt to persuade Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to let aid groups back into the war-torn Darfur region.   Mr. Bashir expelled some aid groups after an international warrant was issued for his arrest for alleged war crimes.

The International Criminal Court issued the warrant last month, charging the Sudanese president with orchestrating a campaign of rape, murder and other crimes against civilians in Darfur, where his government has been fighting rebels since 2003.

Mr. Bashir has refused to cooperate with the court, dismissing it as a tool of Western imperialism.

He has defied the warrant by traveling outside Sudan, going to Saudi Arabia Wednesday following a trip to Qatar for an Arab summit and earlier visits to Libya, Egypt and Eritrea.  

Relations between the United States and Sudan have long been strained. The U.S. government imposed economic sactions against Sudan in 1997, and has accused the government of ties to terrorism.



Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.