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Israeli PM meets Sudan's leader, aims for 'normalization'

Israeli PM meets Sudan's leader, aims for 'normalization'”

Sudan is desperate to lift sanctions linked to its listing by the U.S. as a state sponsor of terror - a key step toward ending its isolation and rebuilding its economy after the popular uprising that toppled longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir a year ago.

Last week, Trump unveiled his long-awaited Middle East plan for Israel-Palestine, which heavily favours Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will "convene a large-scale discussion - with the participation of ministers, ministry director generals and all relevant staff officials on national preparedness regarding the coronavirus", said a statement released by his office on Saturday evening. He said only a "small circle" of top officials in Sudan, as well as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, knew about the meeting.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held talks with Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of Sudan's sovereign council, in the city of Entebbe in central Uganda.

It added that the prime minister believed "Sudan is headed in a new positive direction" and that he had expressed this view to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Sudan - a Muslim-Arab country in northeastern Africa - has recently moved away from Iran's influence over the latter's involvement in Yemen, and ousted al-Bashir a year ago.

Normalising relations with Sudan, where Arab states gathered in 1967 to issue what became known as the "Three No's" - no recognition of Israel, no peace with Israel and no negotiations with Israel - would allow Netanyahu to burnish his diplomatic credentials a month before the country's March 2 election.

The statement from Netanyahu's office said the two men had "agreed to start cooperation leading to normalisation of the relationship between the two countries".

Pompeo phoned Burhan on Sunday and invited him to visit the US, Sudan's ruling sovereign council said.

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A senior Sudanese military official said the meeting was orchestrated by the United Arab Emirates and aimed at helping to remove the terror listing, which dates back to the 1990s, when Sudan briefly hosted Osama bin Laden and other wanted militants.

Netanyahu arrived in Uganda on Monday, saying his country is "returning to Africa in a big way" and urging the East African country to open an embassy in Jerusalem. "One is direct flight from Israel to Uganda".

Traditionally, most diplomatic missions in Israel have been in Tel Aviv as countries maintained a neutral stance over the status of Jerusalem.

It gave the Jewish state the green light to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank, as well as the Jordan Valley, a key part of the territory Palestinians see as their future state.

The Palestinians have been seeking to build unified opposition among Arab nations in opposition to the plan, with the Arab League rejecting it on Saturday.

Israel has long courted African support.

In September, mere days after the new Sudanese cabinet was sworn in, newly appointed Sudanese Foreign Minister Asma Abdullah indicated that her country would be interested in establishing relations with Israel if and when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was solved.

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