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Secretary Clinton on Sanctions

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Secretary Clinton on Sanctions

Posted by Laura Heaton on August 1, 2009

Faced with a situation where a top Obama administration official arguably said too much, Secretary of State Clinton did her best to say as little as possible about the administration’s ongoing Sudan policy review.

“We have made no decision to lift the listing on the terrorist list of Sudan,” Clinton told reporters gathered at a joint press conference the secretary held with the Saudi foreign minister. She stressed that the administration has made “no decisions” yet in its “intensive” review of the U.S. policy toward to Sudan.

Comments by U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration to the Senate Foreign Relations committee on Thursday have put Secretary Clinton and other State department officials in the uncomfortable position of having to publicly address the usefulness of sanctions against the Sudansese government, while not suggesting that Gration spoke out of turn. Gration said that he favors a plan to “unwind” the sanctions that U.S. officials involved in negotiations with Khartoum indicate have served as useful leverage with the northern government.

Congressman Chris Smith (R- NJ), for one, noted this week in a House subcommittee hearing that, in his own meetings with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, the president only wanted to discuss how U.S. sanctions might be lifted.

The decision to roll back sanctions would be contentious among key administration officials.

Gration dismissed the United States’ designation of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism as a “political" decision, an assessment that launched a flood of media attention.