BEIRUT

Middle East

Iran denies cultural centers in Sudan closed

Two men holding an image of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir sitting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, listen on as the latter delivers a speech in Khartoum, Sudan September 26, 2011. (AFP Photo/Ashraf Shazly)

KHARTOUM: Iran Wednesday denied its cultural centers in Sudan have been closed on the orders of Khartoum, saying Sudanese authorities would not want to damage relations.

"The embassy and the cultural and economic centers of Iran and Sudan are continuing with their normal activities in the two countries," said Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdolahian, quoted by Fars news agency.

"Sudanese authorities would not allow damage to our historic bilateral relations," he said.

On Tuesday, an official in Khartoum, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Sudan has ordered Iran to close its cultural centers and given their managers 72 hours to leave the country.

He said the decision was in response to "increased activity by the cultural centers in spreading Shiite Islam," the majority faith in Iran but not in overwhelmingly Sunni Sudan.

The AFP correspondent in Sudan's capital said the Iranian cultural center with its Sudanese employees was operating as usual Wednesday.

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

Iran is also reportedly a significant arms supplier to Sudan and the two governments both support the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.

 

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