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Sudan VP says Abyei referendum may be in doubt

By on October 4, 2010

A referendum on whether Sudan’s disputed Abyei region should join the country’s north or south will not go ahead unless outstanding issues are settled first in talks, Sudan’s vice-president said on Monday.

Ali Osman Mohamed Taha’s comments were the first indication from Sudan’s leadership that the politically sensitive vote in the central Abyei area might not go ahead.

The vote has national implications because it is scheduled to take place on the same day as a referendum on whether south Sudan should separate and become an independent country.

Teams from north and south Sudan were meeting in Addis Ababa to try to agree how the Abyei referendum should be conducted.

“If there is no agreement there will be no room for a referendum in Abyei. The challenge is to reach an agreement that will allow the referendum to take place as scheduled,” Taha, from the north’s dominant National Congress Party (NCP), told a news conference in Khartoum.

The announcement is likely to increase tension with the south’s dominant Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which has in the past insisted the Abyei vote take place on the same day as the southern referendum, scheduled to start on January 9 2011.

One of the key outstanding issues is which communities will be allowed to take part in the vote. Abyei is shared by Dinka Ngok tribespeople, associated with the south, and Arab Misseriya nomads.

Last week the Misseriya said it would fight anyone who prevented its members voting in the referendum.

People from Sudan’s oil-producing south were promised a vote on whether to secede or stay in Sudan in a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of north-south civil war, but arrangements for the vote have fallen behind schedule.

Reuters.

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