Sudan launches new currency

KHARTOUM, July 24, 2011 (AFP) - Sudan launched a new currency on Sunday, six days after the newly independent south did so amid fears of a currency war, but the central bank said it was ready to negotiate with Juba on the old money.

"Today we have launched the new currency in the capital and all the states, and we are ready to issue any amount of the currency through the banks and the ATMs," said the bank's governor, Mohammed Kheir al-Zubair.

Speaking to reporters in Khartoum, he declined to specify how long the old currency would remain in circulation, only saying the transition would be completed "as quickly as possible."

The new Sudanese pound has a redrawn map of the country and certain symbols are absent on the differently coloured notes, following the secession of the south on July 9.

It replaces the old Sudanese pound, which has plunged in value this year, mainly because of the surge in food prices and weak state finances.

One dollar can now buy up to 3.5 Sudanese pounds on the black market, compared with the official exchange rate of 2.67 Sudanese pounds.

The South Sudan pound, launched last Monday in Juba, threatens to further devalue the Sudanese pound and has raised concerns about either country being flooded with old notes.

There are about 11 billion old Sudanese pounds in the north, and the south's central bank governor, Elijah Malok, urged the new country's 10 states to ensure the swiftest possible circulation of their new currency, saying otherwise "a lot of money will pour in and destroy our economy."

But Zubair sought to calm fears about any such move.

"We are ready to negotiate with the government of South Sudan about the old money that they have," he said.

Zubair hailed the launch of the new Sudanese pound as "the beginning of the second republic," echoing the words of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, on July 12, in his first speech to parliament after the south's declaration of independence.

Bashir called for understanding and patience at the start of the new era, as he outlined a package of austerity measures designed to bolster an ailing economy and accommodate the sharp fall in oil revenues.

The issue of currencies was one of a number of key outstanding topics that the north and south failed to agree on prior to the country's partition.

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