KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) _ The International Monetary Fund will reopen its office in Khartoum in recognition of Sudan's 5-year-old economic and financial reform program, the finance minister said Thursday.

Minister Sabir Mahamed Hasan said the IMF also has agreed to put on hold for a year its threat to suspend Sudan from the international body because of the country's failure to pay its $1.7 billion debt.

The African nation was paying off its arrears to the IMF at a rate of about $2.5 million a month but increased the figure to $4.5 million a month, an amount that the IMF had sought.

``This is an achievement that will likely alter the way the world finance bodies look at the Sudan,'' Hassan was quoted as saying by the state-owned radio.

He said Sudanese and IMF officials will meet in April to discuss an intermediate economic reform program Sudan is planning to implement.

The radio did not say when the financial institution will open its office, and the report could not be immediately confirmed.

Sudan's total foreign debts are estimated at about $20 billion.

The IMF closed its office here in 1985, and Sudan adopted the reform program in 1992, which included lifting subsidies, opening the market to competition and floating the currency.

The government also sold loss-making corporations and trimmed its spending. From a record 120 percent some three years ago, the inflation rate came down to under 28 percent last February, according to government figures.