KHARTOUM: The United States remains “very concerned” about Sudan’s human rights record given the restrictions on religious and media freedoms in the country, the US embassy in Khartoum said. The statement posted on the embassy’s Facebook page on Thursday comes ahead of a decision by President Donald Trump on July 12 on whether to permanently lift Washington’s 20-year-old trade embargo on Khartoum. “The United States remains very concerned about Sudan’s human rights record, including the continued closing of political space, and restrictions on religious freedom, freedom of expression, including press freedom,” the embassy said. The protection of human rights is “deeply intertwined with peace and security,” it said, adding that the embassy continues to monitor Khartoum on these issues. “We have raised at all levels our concerns regarding jailed activists, newspaper confiscations, church demolitions, constricted political space and restrictions on personal and religious freedom,” the embassy said. “Moving forward we want to see stronger progress in these areas by the Sudanese government.” Some think tanks have urged the Trump administration to maintain the sanctions given the human rights concerns. US charge d’affaires Steven Koutsis told AFP in an interview earlier this month that Washington was not blind to these concerns, but the sanctions had been imposed on Khartoum for completely different reasons. “The purpose of the sanctions that we have were two-fold – to stop their support of terrorism and to bring peace to Darfur,” Koutsis said. “None of these other issues were the point of sanctions and none of these issues therefore should be linked to the lifting of sanctions.” He said human rights concerns needed to be addressed by having “a broader engagement with the Sudanese government”. Washington imposed sanctions on Khartoum in 1997 for its alleged support for Islamist militant groups. Now slain Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was based in Khartoum from 1992 to 1996. Although Washington believes Khartoum’s terror ties have ebbed, it has kept sanctions in place because of the scorched-earth tactics it has used against ethnic minority rebels in Darfur. The United Nations says at least 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in the western region since the conflict erupted in 2003.