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Sudan president warns of greater conflict with south

By on October 11, 2010

Sudan’s president accused former civil war foes in the south of going back on the terms of a peace deal, warning a worse conflict could erupt if the sides did not settle disputes before a referendum on secession.

The comments from President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, reported on state media, raised the stakes in a war of words between Khartoum and the south’s dominant Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), five years after the sides ended decades of conflict with an accord.

In three months’ time, that peace deal is supposed to come to a climax with a referendum giving the people of the oil- producing south the right to decide whether to declare independence or stay part of Sudan.

Bashir told a conference in Sirte, Libya he regretted the fact that SPLM leader and south Sudan president Salva Kiir had recently publicly come out for separation. This was against the terms of the 2005 peace deal which said both northern and southern leaders should try to make unity “attractive” to southerners before the vote, Suna news agency reported.

Bashir said he was still committed to holding the vote but both sides first had to settle differences over the position of their shared border and how to share out oil revenues, debt and Nile river water.

“MORE DANGEROUS”

“He (Bashir) said a new conflict between the north and south will ensue if there was a failure to address these issues before the referendum and that such a conflict could be more dangerous than the one that took place before the peace agreement” said Suna, reporting on the speech which Bashir gave on Saturday.

Bashir spoke as envoys from the U.N. Security Council wrapped up a visit to Sudan aimed at pressing both sides to hold the vote on time and avert a new civil war.

Any renewal of conflict in Africa’s largest country could spill into the nine countries that border Sudan — Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Chad, Libya and Egypt — threatening the region’s economic success stories and complicating existing conflicts and allegiances.

Diplomats with the U.N. mission said Kiir last week asked them to deploy peacekeepers and set up a buffer zone along the tense north-south border before the vote.

Kiir, who is also first vice president of all of Sudan, angered Khartoum when he said he would not vote for unity in the referendum during a speech to supporters in the southern capital Juba earlier this month.

One of his senior aides later told Reuters Kiir had not meant to indicate his personal voting preferences but just wanted to point out that the north had failed to make unity attractive to the southern voter.

Northern and southern leaders have been locked in negotiations for months on issues including how they would share out oil revenues after the vote. Most of Sudan’s oil is found in the south but runs through the north’s pipelines and port to get to market.

The SPLM has insisted lack of progress in the talks should not be used as an excuse to delay the scheduled start of the referendum on January 9, 2011.

Reuters.

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