Obama To Help Rescue Sudan Peace Deal

A senior Sudanese official on Thursday said Sudan was continuing to work to achieve unity of the country’s north and south and did not believe that southern succession was “inevitable” as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated on Wednesday.

Oil-rich southern Sudan, which fought a decades-long war with the north, is to hold a referendum on independence in January in line with a 2005 peace accord.

“We are working to achieve unity up to the last moment. We don’t think secession is inevitable,” Reuters quoted Rabie Abdelati, from the north’s dominant National Congress Party (NCP), as saying. “Everything is going very smoothly. We don’t see any sign that there will be a problem between the north and the south, that there will be war.”

Clinton said the United States was stepping up diplomatic efforts on Sudan because Washington believed the nation was facing a “ticking time-bomb” ahead of the referendum. She told the Council on Foreign Relations think tank that it was necessary for international leaders to work together to persuade the north to accept southern independence peacefully.

“The situation [in the] north-south is a ticking time bomb of enormous consequence,” Clinton said. “So we are ramping up our efforts to bring the parties together, north and south, the African Union, others to focus on this referendum which has not been given the attention it needs.”

Abelati said Sudan would reject any foreign attempts to interfere in the poll.

U.S. President Barack Obama plans to attend a summit on Sudan organized by the United Nations on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly later this month, according to Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. “The president sees this meeting … as a very important vehicle for focusing international attention on … (the referendum) as Sudan approaches really the last critical 100 days before that vote takes place,” Rice was quoted by news agencies as saying in a conference call.

Also expected to attend the meeting are officials from the African Union, the United Nations, the World Bank and other nations interested in Sudan. Other diplomatic efforts include a visit to Sudan this week by Scott Gration, the U.S. special envoy for Sudan.

Clinton on Wednesday spoke by telephone with Sudan’s vice president, Ali Osman Taha, and with southern leader Salva Kiir to encourage them to prepare for the referendum, according to a spokesman for Clinton.

The north and south remain divided on how to split the south’s oil revenues after the referendum. The war between the government and the Southern People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) claimed some two million lives.

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