President Bashir warns South against voting for independence

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir said Tuesday that he would not accept South Sudan voting for independence in a forthcoming referendum, as negotiations on the oil-region border region of Abyei stalled.


AFP - Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir warned on Tuesday that he will not accept an alternative to unity ahead of a referendum on southern independence, as talks over a contested border region broke down.

South Sudanese are due to vote on January 9 on whether they want independence or wish to remain part of a united Sudan.

Simultaneously, residents in the contested oil-rich region of Abyei are due to vote on whether they want to be part of north or south Sudan, but the two sides said negotiations in Addis Ababa on the region's future have broken down.

"Despite our commitment to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, we will not accept an alternative to unity," Bashir told parliament in a speech, without specifying his reaction in case of a "yes" vote in the south's referendum.

The CPA, signed in 2005, ended a two-decade civil war between north and south, during which two million people were killed.

The peace deal gave the former southern rebels, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), semi-autonomous powers and a share in the Khartoum government, and promised a referendum on southern independence.

"Unity is the probable outcome for the south if it is given freedom of choice in a fair, free election. Sound logic leads the south to unity," the president said.

Analysts say the vote is expected to favour independence.

Bashir pledged a fair referendum but added that demarcation of disputed border points with the south was a "decisive factor in conducting a fair and free election."

Delegations from the north's National Congress Party and the south's SPLM failed to reach an agreement after nine days of talks in the Ethiopian capital.

"Despite serious efforts and many productive discussions, they did not succeed in reaching agreement on the eligibility criteria for voters in the Abyei area referendum," the two sides said in a joint statement.

Demarcation of Abyei's border and the participation of the nomadic Misseriya Arab tribe in the referendum have caused disagreements between the two sides.

Abyei's referendum law gives voting rights to members of the southern Dinka Ngok tribe, leaving it up to a referendum commission to decide which "other Sudanese" are considered residents of the region and can also vote.

The law has angered the Misseriya -- a tribe that migrates each year to the Abyei region looking for pastures for their cattle -- who have threatened to carry out acts of violence in the region if they are not allowed to vote.

The two sides agreed to resume negotiations at the end of October.

South Sudan's army said on Tuesday that the security situation in Abyei is "deteriorating".

The Sudan People's Liberation Army accused northern troops of firing shots in an Abyei market on Thursday in a sign of "provocation".

"According to our sources, the (Sudanese army's) intention is to invade and occupy the Abyei area and parts of Unity State," an SPLA statement said.

Sudan's military last week accused the southern army of crossing a disputed border, warning that the "violation" could derail the referendum.

The talks in Addis Ababa "may resume at the end of this month," Abyei chief administrator Deng Arop Kuol told AFP.

"The two parties should be able to control themselves until the next round" of discussions, he said.

The south's president, Salva Kiir, asked a visiting delegation of United Nations Security Council envoys last week for UN peacekeepers to be posted along the border ahead of the referendum.

A diplomat at the meeting said the request would be considered.

Preparations for the January independence vote are seriously behind schedule, stirring fears of a new conflict between the two sides if the date is delayed.

North Sudan demonstrators and police clashed with a small group of south Sudan activists in Khartoum over the weekend as the UN envoys met Sudan's foreign minister.

The United Nations already has 10,000 peacekeepers in Sudan, not counting its major presence in Darfur, western Sudan as part of a joint force with the African Union. Some of the troops are observing the 2005 peace agreement.

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