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CUBA

Payment gap has businesses in limbo

HAVANA | Many of Cuba’s foreign business partners still have money stuck in state-run banks and do not know when they will get it, 18 months after the accounts were frozen by the cash-strapped Cuban government.

The issue is one of several pressing financial problems that are straining Cuba’s business ties, in a climate darkened by the government’s unwillingness to disclose key information about its economic condition.

Hit by the international financial crisis, U.S. scrutiny of its finances, damaging hurricanes and chronic inefficiencies, the communist-run nation failed to make some debt payments on schedule beginning in 2008, then froze up to $1 billion in the accounts of 600 foreign suppliers by the start of 2009.

It also delayed payments to some joint-venture partners and did not honor some commercial paper that came due thereafter.

State-run banks have offered to pay back the frozen accounts at 2 percent annual interest over five years, but sources said progress has been slow.

SUDAN

‘Arms’ said to be mining explosives

KHARTOUM | Sudanese officials said Wednesday that a cargo ship seized by Cyprus suspected of trying to deliver weapons to Sudan in contravention of a U.N. embargo has explosives onboard for a gold-mining firm.

“The boat contains explosives destined for Port Sudan, for mining firm Ariab, which needs them to work a gold mine,” said Abdel Baqi al-Gilani, Sudan’s minister responsible for mining.

On Tuesday, Cyprus said it it placed the cargo ship Santiago, anchored off the southern city of Limassol, under police guard with a suspected military cargo that would contravene a 2004 U.N. embargo on arms sales and deliveries to Sudan.

BRAZIL

Search on for 600 missing in floods

RIO DE JANEIRO | Rescuers searched Wednesday for 600 people declared missing after torrential floods ripped through cities in northeastern Brazil. The death toll rose to 44 after three bodies were found overnight.

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