Last Updated: Tue Dec 28, 2010 22:52 pm (KSA) 19:52 pm (GMT)

Bashir promises to help Sudan’s independent south

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir says southerners are free to decide on the upcoming
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir says southerners are free to decide on the upcoming

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir pledged on Tuesday to help build a secure, stable and brotherly state in the south if it votes for independence in a referendum less than two weeks away.

"We will not deny our southern brothers their decision, and we will help them to build their state, because we want a secure and stable state ... if there are troubles, these troubles will come to us," Bashir said in a live speech on state television.

Speaking to thousands of supporters in Gezira state, Sudan's bread basket southeast of Khartoum, Bashir said he would be "the first to recognize the south" if it chooses secession in a free and fair vote on January 9.

"The ball is in your court and the decision is yours. If you say unity, welcome. And if you say secession, also welcome, and welcome to a new brotherly state."

"We are going to cooperate and integrate in all areas because what is between us is more than what is between any other countries."

3.5 million to vote on referendum

More than 3.5 million southerners are registered to participate in the referendum, which will give them the chance to vote on whether to remain united with the north or secede.

The vote, a key plank of the 2005 north-south peace deal that ended the devastating 22-year civil war in which killed some two million people, is widely expected to endorse southern independence.

Pagan Amum, secretary general of the former southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), welcomed Bashir's comments.

"This is the positive outlook we are calling for ... This is precisely what we are saying," he told reporters in Khartoum.

"We are calling on the people of northern Sudan to be in solidarity with the people of southern Sudan as they begin to build their own independent state."

"They need their solidarity, while the people of southern Sudan need to give solidarity to the people of the north as they begin a new journey of building a new state in what remains after the separation of the south."

Since July, Khartoum and Juba have been unsuccessfully discussing the key post-referendum sticking points, including future citizenship arrangements, the sharing out of natural resources -- especially oil -- security and compliance with international accords.

Abyei disputed region

Negotiations are also deadlocked on two outstanding issues that Bashir's ruling National Congress Party and the SPLM have been seeking to resolve, namely the future of the disputed Abyei region and demarcation of the north-south border.

Amum said the two parties had agreed to prioritise certain issues that should be finalised before the referendum and other issue that will be discussed afterwards, without elaborating which.

Tensions have flared between the north and the south in recent months, with the United Nations confirming on December 13 that Sudanese warplanes had raided a border area of south Sudan.

A committee was set up under the 2005 peace deal to demarcate the boundary between the Muslim north and mostly Christian south along the border that existed when Sudan gained independence from Britain and Egypt in 1956.

But around 20 percent of the border has yet to be agreed on, with the two sides disputing at least five points along it.

Amum said on Tuesday that the border disagreements might be referred to international arbitration if they were not overcome in the next few months.

"The border demarcation did got go as we had both expected. The commission looked at the disputed areas technically and they disagree, so we need to look at them politically."

"If we cannot reach agreement then... maybe arbitration will be required."

Arab League

Arab League's cheif, Amr Moussa said the league will send a mission to monitor the Jan. 9 vote.

"I don't feel any inclination to hostilities between the two parties regardless of the results from the upcoming referendum," Moussa said, according to comments published by Sudan's news agency.

"What is going on between them is far away from war. There is a political good will."

Moussa was speaking at the start of a two-day visit to Sudan that will also take him to the south.

"I will discuss post-referendum issues in Khartoum and Juba and how to save a good relationship between the north and the south," he said, adding that the future of that relationship would have an impact on the region.

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