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03:46 GMT +3 hours18 December 2014
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Russia seeks contracts in South Sudan - envoy

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Russia is seeking to establish economic ties with the world's newest state, South Sudan.

Russia is seeking to establish economic ties with the world's newest state, South Sudan, Russian president's special envoy to Africa, Mikhail Margelov, said.

Margelov, who represented Russia at events marking South Sudan's independence on Saturday, said the oil-rich country, devastated by decades of civil war, faces "tremendous challenges" of developing infrastructure, setting up state institutions, creating a national army and developing transport and communications.

"In fact, the country has to be built from scratch, that's why we must seize opportunity and find our place in South Sudan's economy as soon as possible, with far-reaching intentions," said.

Oil-rich Sudan, Africa's largest country, has served as a 20th-century battleground for land, resources and ethnic identity. South Sudan, where most follow Christian and traditional beliefs, became independent on Saturday after a January referendum agreed under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war with the Arab Muslim north.

A range of countries, including Russia, the United States, China, Switzerland and others have already formally recognized the Republic of South Sudan.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in a congratulatory letter to his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir Mayardit, who took oath as president earlier in the day, that future cooperation between Russia and the newly established republic will become a vital factor for Africa's stability.