IMF in touch with Sudan but no lending until arrears addressed – official

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DUBAI (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) continues to provide Sudan with technical assistance and policy support, but it cannot offer additional financing because of the country’s arrears, a senior IMF official said.

Sudan’s Transitional Military Council is in talks with opposition groups on the formation of a joint body to lead a transition from 30 years of autocratic rule by Omar al-Bashir. It ousted and arrested al-Bashir after months of protests.

The council has not approached the IMF about the country’s debt, Jihad Azour, director of the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia department, told Reuters, but the fund has continued its engagement with Sudan authorities after the political upheaval.

“We have been engaged with Sudan, we provide them with technical assistance and policy support,” Azour said.

But he added: “We cannot provide them with financing because they are still incurring arrears, and until they address this arrear issue, in our bylaws, we cannot provide them with additional lending.”

The IMF in late 2017 estimated Sudan’s arrears to the fund to be $1.3 billion this year, out of a total external debt estimated at $59 billion.

The United States imposed a range of sanctions on Sudan, first over Khartoum’s perceived support of militants, later its violent suppression of rebels in Darfur.

An overhaul of Sudan’s debt is “too premature”, said Azour, “because this would require the removal of the sanctions. Technically it is not something that you can achieve now.”

Reporting by Davide Barbuscia; Editing by Dale Hudson

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