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JAKARTA, May 17 (Reuters) - Suriname's Trust Bank hopes to complete a conversion of its operations to Islamic banking by the end of this year, becoming the first full-fledged Islamic bank in South America, its chief executive told Reuters.
This week the bank received approval in principle from the central bank for the transition, as it aims to expand financing to small businesses and build stronger commercial links with Muslim countries, said Chief Executive Maureen Badjoeri.
The lender, which decided on the transition in June of last year, is being advised by the Jeddah-based Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), the private sector arm of the Islamic Development Bank.
Trust Bank is also in discussion with ICD for the latter to take a strategic stake in the bank after the transition is completed, Badjoeri said on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the Islamic Development Bank being held in Jakarta.
Islamic finance follows religious principles which forbid involvement in activities such as gambling, tobacco, alcohol, and the charging of interest.
Suriname, perched on South America's northeastern shoulder, is the only country from the Western hemisphere to be a member of the IDB group, joining in 1997. (Reporting by Bernardo Vizcaino; Editing by Kim Coghill)