May 2, 2018 / 5:27 PM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-Sudan assessing military participation in Yemen - defence minister

(Adds detail and background)

KHARTOUM, May 2 (Reuters) - Sudan is assessing its participation in Saudi-led military operations in Yemen, its defence minister said on Wednesday, amid growing discontent in parliament over high costs and the deaths of dozens of Sudanese soldiers.

Sudan has at least 3,000 ground troops and several fighter jets fighting in Yemen as part of the Saudi-led alliance. Dozens of Sudanese soldiers have been killed on key coastal battlefronts, local and Yemeni media have reported, while Khartoum is struggling with a severe hard-currency shortage.

“We are conducting studies and assessments these days about the participation of Sudanese forces in Yemen,” Defence Minister Ali Salem told parliament.

“This involves various sides, the negatives and positives of the participation, and then we will take a decision that will benefit the country and its stability.”

He said the armed forces command was preparing a study on Sudan’s role in the coalition and would complete it soon.

Sudan sent troops to Yemen with the Saudi-led coalition that intervened in the civil war in 2015 against Iran-aligned Houthis who had captured most of the main populated areas of the country and forced President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi into exile.

Sudan’s foreign currency crunch arose from decades of U.S. sanctions. Khartoum has been expecting financial support from wealthy Gulf Arab states involved in the coalition but few funds have trickled into the sprawling country of 40 million people.

Sudanese parliamentarian Hassan Othman Rizq, who has spearheaded a campaign for withdrawing forces from Yemen, told Reuters the decision to dispatch troops there was illegal because lawmakers had not approved it.

“Sudanese troops are stationed on hot battlefronts, and thus they are sustaining higher losses,” Rizq said.

“Sudan had not benefited economically from the participation, unlike (other) countries that did not send troops but are getting financial support,” he added, alluding to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

There was no immediate comment from the Saudis and UAE.

Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Nadine Awadalla and Sami Aboudi; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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