SUDAN WATCH: Sudan wants to expand economic ties with South Korea

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Sudan wants to expand economic ties with South Korea

Visiting Sudanese Foreign Affairs Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail has called for further economic cooperation with South Korea in sectors such as electronics, textiles, cars and the oil industry.

[Note, on Sep 5 he met with Japan's Foreign Minister to ask for more aid. Guess the meeting wasn't a great success in his view or he would have made sure the press got to know about it. Going by press reports, it looks like the upshot of the meeting was that the Japanese agreed their contribution would improve when Sudan's handling of Darfur improved.]

After signing an agreement to avoid double taxation with his South Korean counterpart Friday, Ismail said this agreement and his visit to Seoul will help boost the economic relationship of the two countries,

"I have met with some chairmen of important companies here, and also invited President Roh Moo-hyun and Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon to our country. Maybe business groups will come with them,'' Ismail said in an interview with The Korea Times Sunday.

"Unfortunately, South Korean National Oil Corporation (KNOC) came in second after a Malaysian national company in a competition for an oil contract in our country recently,'' he said, citing KNOC's lack of specific knowledge on the international oil market and scarce government-level exchanges between the two countries as some of the reasons for the failure.

The minister, however, stressed that his country still has a lot of opportunities to offer investors, especially those from Asian countries, unlike other African nations where European companies tend to be dominant." "Our biggest trading partner is China. France is second, Malaysia third and India is following close behind,'' he said.

"Those countries in alliance with the U.S., like Japan and South Korea, have been reluctant to invest because of political interests. China, however, pursues an independent policy, as does Malaysia, India and Iran. China approached us first, so they became our number one partner,'' he added, explaining how China came to play such a big role in their economy, especially in the oil sector, since the Sudanese government has a ``sometimes difficult'' relationship with the U.S.

South Korea, with no crude oil produced on its territory, has been stepping up energy diplomacy, including projects involving trans-Siberian pipelines as well as direct imports from resource-rich countries.

Recently Sudan has received a lot of international attention regarding the Darfur crisis. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell reported to the U.S. Senate's Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday that the Sudanese government in Khartoum and the Janjaweed, or Arab militia under the government's control, is committing ``genocide'' against the people of Darfur, in the western region of Sudan. Ismail rebuffed the accusation against Sudanese government involvement in the "genocide'' as totally groundless.

"Of course there is a humanitarian crisis in Darfur. But is it okay to use the case for immoral political agenda? The Bush administration is just trying to detract the world's attention from Iraq, where their soldiers are dying and the prisoners of Abu Graib are being immorally and sexually abused,'' the minister said, accusing the U.S. of applying double standards to Iraq and Sudan.

He also pointed to the relatively lukewarm reaction from other parts of the world, such as members of the African Union (AU) and European countries, to the Darfur crisis. "Other delegations from AU, European and Arab countries have also been welcomed into our country to assess the situation, but it is only the U.S. who uses the term "genocide'' to describe the situation in Darfur,'' he said.


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