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Carter says Bashir wants all Sudan debt forgiven

JUBA, Jan 13, 2011 – Former US president Jimmy Carter said on Thursday that Khartoum wants all of Sudan\’s $39-billion debt forgiven, saying he had erred in earlier saying it was ready to assume the south\’s share.

Carter, who has shuttled between northern and southern leaders over the past week as the south has held a landmark referendum expected to lead to its independence, said he supported Khartoum\’s position.

"There is maybe $39 billion of debt and the World Bank tells us that maybe $30 billion of that is in arrears. That is a very serious burden," he said, pointing to the huge costs of partition for both new nations as they seek to heal the wounds of a devastating 22-year civil war.

The former US president said he had looked at a list of the creditors.

"I don\’t see anyone on the list who can\’t afford to forgive it."

After a meeting with President Omar al-Bashir on Saturday, Carter had told CNN on Monday that the north was ready to take on all of Sudan\’s debt, drawing a strong denial from Khartoum.

"He (Bashir) said there should be no division of the debt," Carter said.

"I was thinking that he meant that the debt would be to the north and I made that statement incorrectly," he told reporters.

"I have apologised to him… What he meant was that there shouldn\’t be argument about the division of the debt."

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Khartoum\’s accumulated debt and international isolation have choked its sources of external financing, with the United States in November extending economic sanctions first imposed in 1997 for at least another year.

Washington has said it will begin easing some of the sanctions if Khartoum recognises the outcome of the southern independence vote.

A possible drop in the north\’s share of future oil revenues if the resource-rich south secedes in July may compound the north\’s economic woes while the south is one of the poorest regions of the world and heavily dependent on foreign aid.

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