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Bashir eyes Western help in filling Sudan oil gap

KHARTOUM, Oct 10 – President Omar al-Bashir on Monday outlined measures to bolster Sudan’s ailing economy, saying the government would seek the help of Western countries to help offset the loss of southern oil revenues.

“In the coming days, we will continue our efforts to communicate with Western countries, especially the United States, Britain and Norway, about the economic conference due to take place in Turkey next year, to help Sudan fill the gap in oil revenues,” Bashir said in a speech to parliament.

Norway is helping Khartoum to prepare for the conference, to be hosted in Istanbul, which aims to attract sorely needed foreign investment and international cooperation with Sudan’s development plans.

“The international economic crisis and the split of South Sudan, which caused us to lose our oil revenues, is having a negative impact on the Sudanese economy that we cannot ignore,” Bashir said.

“To minimise this negative impact, we are going to depend on agriculture and manufactured agricultural products as the basis for economic development, and we are going to restructure the government,” he added.

South Sudan, which won independence in July, produces three-quarters of the divided country’s 470,000 barrels per day of oil — Khartoum’s main foreign currency earner.

Since southern secession, Sudan has witnessed accelerating inflation and a sharp devaluation of its currency, the Sudanese pound.

The government has had to introduce an array of austerity measures to cope with the loss of income, and has repeatedly appealed for international help to alleviate its crippling debts, estimated at around $38 billion.

It is also urgently seeking foreign investment, heavily restricted by US sanctions, and economic diversification after its traditional mainstays like agriculture were neglected during a decade of windfall oil revenues.

The International Monetary Fund forecasts negative economic growth for Sudan in 2011 and 2012.

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