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Sudan defence firms scrap North Korea deals

Sudan said Wednesday its defence firms have scrapped contracts with North Korea, acknowledging for the first time the existence of such deals with the Asian pariah state under heavy sanctions.

“Sudan’s defence manufacturers have cancelled all contracts signed with North Korea and also ended their relations, direct or through third parties, with North Korea,” the foreign ministry said, without giving details of the agreements.

Khartoum had also set up a committee to implement United Nations Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang, the ministry said in a statement.

The United States has been stepping up pressure on Sudan to cut all of its ties with North Korea, even though the East African country has had no diplomatic relations with the rogue nuclear power.

In October, the US lifted its decades-old sanctions imposed on Sudan but kept it on a list of “state sponsors of terrorism” along with North Korea, Iran and Syria.

North Korea last year rattled the international community with a flurry of nuclear and missile tests.

US President Donald Trump is due to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12 in Singapore, with Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal topping the agenda.

“Sudan is fully committed to UN Security Council resolutions concerning North Korea… and it will give its committee’s report to the UNSC,” the foreign ministry said.

– US demands evidence –

Sudanese officials say that having Khartoum on Washington’s “terrorism” blacklist makes international banks wary of doing business in Sudan and in turn hampers the country’s economic revival.

Despite the US lifting the sanctions, the Sudanese economy has been hit hard by surging inflation, high foreign debt of more than $50 billion, and the loss of oil earnings.

Officials say getting Khartoum off Washington’s blacklist will boost the economy, as international financiers will then consider investing in Sudan.

However, Washington insists on evidence that Khartoum has indeed terminated all ties with North Korea.

“There is lot more that we need to see in the way of evidence provided to us that the business has been terminated,” a top US official familiar with the bilateral negotiations told AFP on condition of anonymity last month.

“No more business, period. Give us the evidence that in fact you are stopping it. That’s what they have to do with us.”

The United States imposed sanctions in 1997 over Sudan’s alleged support of Islamist militant groups. Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden lived in Sudan between 1992 and 1996.

After decades of strained diplomatic relations, ties between Washington and Khartoum improved under the presidency of Barack Obama, later resulting in the lifting of sanctions by Trump last year.

Sudan’s overall economy was hit after the south separated from the north in 2011, taking with it about 75 percent of greater Sudan’s oil earnings.

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