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Trump administration offered 9/11 victims millions to save Sudan-Israel normalisation deal

Lawyers for the 9/11 victims and their families have asked for $4 billion [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 December, 2020

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The future of a US-brokered agreement between Israel and Sudan remains in question amid disagreements over compensation to 9/11 victims.
The Trump administration offered hundreds of millions of dollars to the victims of the 9/11 attacks in an attempt to get them to drop legal action against Sudan, according to a new report.

Khartoum has threatened to drop a Washington-brokered agreement to normalise ties with Israel unless it is granted immunity to future lawsuits relating to Al-Qaeda attacks.

In a bid to save that agreement, the White House offered the victims and families of victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks $700 million in compensation if they agreed to drop legal action, sources told ABCNews.

Lawyers for the 9/11 claimants responded by saying they wanted as much as $4 billion in compensation, a proposal rejected by the Trump administration and Senate Republicans, the sources said.

While the current Sudanese administration has no links to the 9/11 attacks, Khartoum was found liable by US courts for two major Al-Qaeda attacks that took place in 1998 and 2000.

Sudan hosted Al-Qaeda members including then-leader Osama bin Laden during the early and mid-'90s. 

That action put Khartoum on the US State Sponsors of Terrorism list, a designation that has exposed Sudan to sanctions and limited its access to foreign investment and aid ever since.

Read more: How US blackmail pushed Sudan to normalise relations with Israel

The country's removal from that list has been a key goal of the Sudanese transitional government since the ousting of former dictator Omar al-Bashir last year. 

The Trump administration promised to remove Khartoum from the terror list and restore its sovereign immunities - meaning it would no longer be exposed to lawsuits in US courts - if it agreed to normalise ties with Israel.

Continuing support in Congress for the idea that 9/11 victims should be able to claim compensation from Sudan has thrown a wrench in that deal.

Ongoing negotations seek to save the Israeli-Sudanese deal before Congress adjourns next week.

If that does not happen, the Trump administration will be unable to hold a planned signing ceremony in January for the nascent agreement between Khartoum and Tel Aviv.

The White House has rejected proposals for changes to the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act that would strengthen the 9/11 victims' claims against Sudan, sources told ABCNews.

It is not only the future of the Sudanese-Israeli deal that concerns the Trump administration, the sources explained.

The White House worries that changes to the law would also expose ally Saudi Arabia to legal claims, they said.

The Trump administration is currently lobbying Riyadh to join the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco in agreeing to establish relations with Israel.

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