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Comoros expects stronger relations with Sudan

Aug 15, 2006 (MORONI) — Comoros’ Sudan-educated President Ahmed Abdullah Mohamed Sambi expects to strengthen cultural and economic ties with Khartoum, an aide said on Tuesday.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir sent a delegation to the Indian Ocean archipelago earlier this month to discuss possible treaties on farming and fishing.

"The Comoros and Sudan are expecting ... to reinforce their cultural and economic cooperation," Daoud Athoumane, a diplomatic adviser to Sambi, told Reuters.

A popular Islamic cleric, nicknamed "the Ayatollah" because of his religious schooling in Sudan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, Sambi won May elections that were the Comoros’ first peaceful handover of power since the islands’ independence in 1975.

Faced with tight European restrictions on visas, many students from Comoros — whose only university opened two years ago — choose to study in the Middle East.

Sambi has repeatedly denied charges from critics that he is a closet Islamic hardliner who will introduce Sharia law, instead vowing not to touch the Islamic republic’s largely secular constitution and to focus on rebuilding the economy.