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Wednesday, April 28, 1999 Published at 23:24 GMT 00:24 UK

World: Americas

US softens sanctions

The US will allow food exports to Sudan, which it bombed in 1998

United States sanctions will no longer prohibit humanitarian goods, following a major policy change.

The move means food and medicines can be sold to Sudan, Libya, Iran and other countries covered by unilateral US sanctions.

Stuart Eizenstat: Money should be used on food not terrorism
Announcing the initiative, US Under Secretary of State Stuart Eizenstat said that restricting such items hurt innocent people, did not weaken their regimes, damaged America's image abroad, and was bad for US business.

"We generally now see that sales of food, medicine and other human necessities don't generally enhance a nation's military capacities or their ability to support terrorism," he said.

"Indeed, monies spent on agricultural commodities and products would not be available for other less desirable uses," he said.

However, the change will have little effect on Iraq, North Korea and Cuba, which already receive humanitarian goods through a variety of US and international exemptions.

Trade advantage

The Clinton administration has said the change will improve trade with countries under sanctions.

It is expected to give an immediate boost to US agriculture, with export sales rising by at least $500m.

Washington insisted the change did not signal any fundamental shift in its policy towards countries currently facing unilateral sanctions.

But BBC Washington Correspondent Rob Watson says the US is effectively admitting the policy of including food and medicines in sanctions does not work.

Over the years, many US companies have argued that unilateral sanctions damage American profits and cost American jobs, while rarely achieving their stated goals.

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