6 February 2013

Sudanese President Hold Talks With Iran's Ahmadinejad in Cairo - State Media

Khartoum — Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir met with his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, today on the sidelines of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit taking place in Egypt.

Sudan's official news agency (SUNA) quoted foreign minister Ali Karti as saying that the meeting comes in the context of a framework of communication and consultation on common themes between the two countries.

Karti went on to say that there is an historical friendship relationship between Iran and Sudan and that the two continuously consult each other on regional and international issues.

The top Sudanese diplomat disclosed that he expects fresh Iranian investments to flow into the country but provided no details.

The ties between Iran and Sudan have been mainly focused on military aspects but the two countries have negligible trade relations.

The Iranian president paid a visit to Khartoum in 2011 but disappointed his Sudanese hosts by failing to offer any financial help. Officials in Khartoum have privately said that they hoped Tehran would provide a hard currency deposit in Sudan's central bank to boost its Forex reserves, which have deteriorated after the secession of the oil-rich South that year.

By contrast Ahmadinejad on Wednesday offered Sudan's northern neighbour a "big credit line" to help its beleaguered economy.

"We can provide a big credit line to our Egyptian brothers," he told the state-run Al-Ahram daily. "If the two peoples cooperate and join forces, they can become an important element".

Egypt and Iran severed relations after the 1979 Islamic revolution and Egypt's peace treaty with Israel the same year.

There is also a dispute within Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) over its links with Tehran, with some - including the foreign minister - supporting the downgrading of ties in order to appeal to Arab Gulf Sunni states at odds with Shiite power in Iran.

The Islamic base of the ruling party is also unhappy over what they see as attempts by Iran to spread the Shiite faith in Sudan.

Today the highest Islamic authority in Sudan called for securing the society from pro-Shiite activities in the country.

Sudan twice allowed Iranian warships to dock in Port Sudan last year, drawing concern by the United States and its allies in the Gulf.

In an editorial last November titled "The fall of masks between Iran and Sudan", the Saudi pro-government Al-Riyadh newspaper blasted Khartoum over allowing entry to the Iranian warships, saying there is no "logical justification" for a relationship between the two countries.

The first visit came a few days after a suspected Israeli airstrike on a weapons factory in the Sudanese capital amid allegations from the Jewish state that the country is serving as a hub for Iranian weapons headed to militants in the Gaza strip.

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