Tue, Jun 10, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Sudanese regional leaders agree on peace ‘roadmap’

AP , KHARTOUM

The leaders of Sudan’s northern and southern halves on Sunday signed a new “roadmap” for peace for the contested oil-rich Abyei region that, if implemented, could stop the nation’s slide back into civil war.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, from the Arab-dominated north, and First Vice President Salva Kiir, of the south, agreed to refer the matter to international arbitration, for the first time, and set up a new interim administration for the troubled border region.

In a ceremony late on Sunday, the two sides spelled out the details of the agreement, which also promised the UN free movement around the area, something it complained it was denied before.

The event, held in Khartoum’s “Friendship Hall,” was packed with international dignitaries and Sudanese public figures.

“This problem of Abyei, which was to undermine the unity in Sudan, will thank God, be used for building a unified Sudan,” al-Bashir told the crowd.

Kiir said the new agreement ensures that the resources in the area are used to improve life along the north-south border area.

He said the two sides were working to avoid a return to two decades of civil war that ended with a 2005 peace agreement.

The fighting in Abyei has threatened to derail the agreement. Clashes last month drove up to 90,000 people from their homes, burned the town to the ground, and left at least 22 soldiers dead and hundreds injured.

ROADMAP

The roadmap, drafted over the past week, allows the tens of thousands of displaced back to their homes. It sets up an interim administration to be headed by a southerner. His deputy would be from al-Bashir’s party, the agreement said.

The presidency would appoint the two officials.

The 2005 peace agreement created a unity government between the one-time rivals. During the relative calm the oil fields between the north and south were developed.

Much of that oil is located in Abyei, long claimed by both sides. It lies north of the boundary between the two halves, but many in the southern leadership hail from that region.

PROPOSAL

The region was accorded a special status in the 2005 peace deal because the two sides could not agree on its borders.

A border proposed at the time by an international commission, which would have put Abyei in the south, was rejected by the north. Since then there have been sporadic clashes between northern and southern forces but last month’s fighting was the worst, prompting international warnings over a return to civil war.

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