BEIRUT

Middle East

Sudan orders closure of Iran cultural centers

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad review an honor guard, in Tehran April, 26, 2006. (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)

KHARTOUM: Sudan has ordered Iran to close its cultural centers and given their managers 72 hours to leave the country, an official said Tuesday, in a shock to generally close relations.

"Sudanese authorities summoned the Iranian charge d'affaires in Khartoum and informed him of the decision to close the three cultural centers and to give the diplomats who ran them 72 hours to leave the country," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He said the decision was a response to "increased activity by the cultural centers in spreading Shiite Islam," the majority faith in Iran but a fringe one in overwhelmingly Sunni Sudan.

Khartoum has maintained generally close relations with Tehran, whose warships have made a number of port calls in Port Sudan this year.

Iran is also reportedly a significant arms supplier to Sudan and the two governments are both backers of Hamas, although Sudan has denied Israeli accusations that it has acted as a conduit for Iranian arms deliveries to the Palestinian Islamist group.

A Sudanese analyst told AFP that the move by Khartoum might be in response to pressure from Riyadh, which put enormous strain on the Sudanese economy earlier this year by denying it access to the Saudi banking system.

 

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