Sudan starts to talk 'options' after referendum

Leaders from the dominant northern and southern parties began formal negotiations on Saturday on issues including how they would divide oil revenues after the referendum.

Sudan starts to talk 'options' after referendum

Northern and southern Sudanese leaders said on Saturday they would consider forming a confederation or a common market if southerners vote for independence in a forthcoming referendum.

Talks between President Omar el-Beshir's National Congress Party (NCP) and the former southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) were focused on planning a peaceful transition for January's referendum.

The SPLM, which controls the semi-autonomous government in south Sudan, is campaigning for secession while Beshir's NCP has pledged to work for unity and promised a fair referendum.

Leaders from the dominant northern and southern parties began formal negotiations on Saturday on issues including how they would divide oil revenues after the referendum.

Most of Sudan's proven oil reserves are in the south.

Over the next few months they are expected to negotiate four key issues: sharing oil resources, citizenship, security and respect of international agreements, with the next meeting due July 19.

"Options"

They told reporters they were considering four options suggested by an African Union panel led by former South African president Thabo Mbeki.

In one option "we considered the possibility of the creation of two independent countries which negotiate a framework of cooperation which extends to the establishment of shared governance institutions in a confederal arrangement," said Mbeki, who spoke at the launch of negotiations in Khartoum.

Another option was for two separate countries with shared "soft borders that permit freedom of movement for both people and goods," said Mbeki.

The other two options, he said, were total separation -- with citizens needing visas to cross the border -- and continued north-south unity, if southerners chose that option in the referendum.

"These (the four options) will be part of the issues to be discussed by both parties," Sayed el-Khatib, a senior member of north Sudan's National Congress Party (NCP), told reporters.

The parties said they would spend the next months working out how they would share oil and other assets, as well as the burden of Sudan's debt, after the vote.

Also on the agenda was the citizenship of their populations -- campaign group Refugees International said last month that southerners in the north and northerners in the south might be left stateless and vulnerable to attacks after a split.

The referendum is due in January 2011.

The contested oil-rich region of Abyei will hold a separate referendum to decide whether it wants to join the north or the south of Sudan.


Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 11 Temmuz 2010, 11:46

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