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 4/8/2015 Bashir says Saudi Arabia lifted restrictions on banking with Sudan

April 7, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir disclosed today that orders were issued by Riyadh to all Saudi banks to resume their dealings with Sudan which were quietly suspended more than a year ago.

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Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir (L) walking with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Bin Abdel Aziz in Riyadh on 25 March 2015 (SPA)

Sudanese officials had attributed the move to pressure by the United States which has economic sanctions imposed on the East African nation since 1997.

But banking sources argued that politics was not a factor and that these banks were simply seeking to hedge the risk of being found in violation of US sanctions and incurring hefty fines as a result.

Last year, French bank BNP Paribas BNPP.PA agreed to pay almost $9 billion to resolve accusations it violated U.S. sanctions against several blacklisted countries including Sudan, Cuba and Iran.

The bank admitted that for its Sudanese clients, it set up elaborate payment structures that routed transactions through satellite banks to disguise their origin.

In 2009, Zurich-based Credit Suisse AG agreed to pay $536 million to settle claims the bank helped process payments involving Iran, Sudan, Burma, Cuba and Libya from the mid-1990s through 2006.

Bashir said in a meeting with students in Khartoum broadcasted by pro-government Ashorooq TVon Tuesday evening, that the issue of money transfers with banks in Saudi Arabia was resolved before his return from a visit to Riyadh late last month where he held talks with senior officials including King Salman Bin Abdel Aziz.

The trip marked a new page in relations between the two countries which have been strained for years over Khartoum’s close ties with Tehran.

Sudan announced that it joined the Saudi-led military coalition against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Bashir also revealed that Sudanese nationals will not face the same obstacles in obtaining visas and work permits in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as they used to.

He said that the coming period will witness positive economic developments that will relieve the problems of unemployment and inflation in conjunction with the increase in the flow of Arab investments into Sudan within the framework of the Arab food security project.

The Sudanese president also noted that Arab funds have doubled the money allocated to food security projects.

The Sudanese minister of Investment Mustafa Osman Ismail has spoken of an upcoming visit by the Saudi Minister of Agriculture Abdul Rahman Abdul Mohsen al-Fadhli on Wednesday to promote Saudi investments in the country.

Bashir said that his country overcame the economic shock after the secession of South Sudan through the implementation of the tripartite program and that now the government is executing a five-year program to further stabilize the situation.

He also pledged that the government will improve the conditions of workers and raise wages to the extent that will allow them to improve their living conditions and also vowed to achieve parity between black market exchange rate and official one.

In a related issue, Sudan’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBoS) reported that the inflation rate increased slightly to 23.2% in March from 23% in February.

The double-digit inflation rate has been one of the most visible features of Sudan’s economic crisis since losing the oil-rich south in 2011.

Sudan’s mammoth $43 billion external debt and US sanctions have limited its access to borrowing that would have helped it plug its budget deficit and contain an erosion in the value of the local currency.

Officials in Khartoum are now optimistic that the country will see an easing of economic difficulties with Arab Gulf states now more willing to help after Sudan shifted its political alliance away from Iran.

(ST)

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