Leaders of Sudan's main southern rebel group debated a peace deal to end Africa's longest-running war ahead of a vote on approving the agreement with Sudan's government.
The Sudan People's Liberation Army's legislative body was expected to yesterday endorse the Jan. 9 agreement, which leader John Garang signed with Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha.
The deal, once ratified by the rebels' National Liberation Council, would be legally binding on the entire group.
Both the government and southern rebels set yesterday as a deadline for their respective legislatures to approve the deal.
The Arab-Muslim dominated government in the country's north has tabled the peace deal in parliament, but has yet to debate it. It was not clear when the debate would take place, as yesterday was a Muslim holiday.
For southern Sudan to fully benefit from the agreement, Garang said his rebel group should help negotiate peace settlements in the country's other conflicts.
"It is necessary that there be a fair and just political settlement in Darfur and in eastern Sudan so that there is a comprehensive peace agreement all over Sudan," Garang said.
The north-south agreement does not cover a 23-month rebellion in Sudan's western region of Darfur or a low-intensity insurgency in the Red Sea Hills area of eastern Sudan.
UN and US officials hope that the north-south deal will help end Sudan's other conflicts. The peace agreement provides a formula for southern rebels and the government to share political power and the country's oil wealth and other natural resources.