Egypt, Libya, Su­dan con­sult ahead of south vote

The Pak Banker - - International -

KHAR­TOUM: The lead­ers of Egypt and Libya were in Khar­toum Tues­day for talks with Su­danese lead­ers on the fu­ture of Africa's largest coun­try ahead of a ref­er­en­dum that's likely to break it into two.

The talks come less than three weeks be­fore a Jan. 9 vote in the mainly an­i­mist and Chris­tian south of Su­dan on whether the re­gion should se­cede. The ref­er­en­dum is re­quired un­der a 2005 peace ac­cord that ended more than 20 years of civil war that left nearly 2 mil­lion peo­ple dead and the south­ern­ers scarred and sus­pi­cious of Khar­toum's Mus­lim Arab rulers.

Su­danese pres­i­den­tial spokesman Emad Sid Ahmed told re­porters in Khar­toum that Egyp­tian Pres­i­dent Hosni Mubarak and Libyan leader Muam­mar Gad­hafi were to meet with Su­dan's Pres­i­dent Omar al-Bashir and south­ern Su­danese leader Salva Kiir.

Egypt says the Khar­toum talks are de­signed to en­sure that the ref­er­en­dum is held in a "cli­mate of free­dom, trans­parency and cred­i­bil­ity" and that the four lead­ers would re­view some of the out­stand­ing is­sues be­tween the two Su­danese sides, such as the de­mar­ca­tion of the border and the fu­ture of the oil-rich area of Abyei on the border be­tween north and south Su­dan.

Both Libya and Egypt view Su­dan as their strate­gic back­yard and would want to see the breakup of their south­ern neigh­bor to be peace­ful and avoid any mas­sive flow of refugees into their ter­ri­tory as a re­sult of re­newal of fight­ing.

But an in­ter­nal U.N. doc­u­ment says the world body is plan­ning for the pos­si­bil­ity that 2.8 mil­lion peo­ple would be dis­placed in Su­dan if hos­til­i­ties breaks out over the ref­er­en­dum.

The doc­u­ment, ob­tained by The As­so­ci­ated Press, warns that a "de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the North-South re­la­tion­ship, as well as ten­sions within north­ern and south­ern Su­dan could lead to large-scale out­flow of peo­ple to neigh­bor­ing coun­tries."

Both mil­i­taries have re­in­forced their po­si­tions along the border in re­cent months, hin­der­ing aid work, the re­port said. If ei­ther the north or the south doesn't ac­cept the re­sults of the ref­er­en­dum, the re­sult could be a "war-like" sit­u­a­tion, it said.

While Libya sees Su­dan as a vi­tal piece of its Africafo­cused for­eign pol­icy, there is much more at stake there for Egypt, the most pop­u­lous Arab nation.

Su­dan lies astride the mid­dle reaches of the Nile, the pri­mary source of wa­ter for mainly desert Egypt. The White Nile, one of the river's two main trib­u­taries, runs through south Su­dan.

Egypt fears an in­de­pen­dent south Su­dan may come un­der the in­flu­ence of ri­val Nile basin na­tions like Ethiopia that have been com­plain­ing Egypt uses more than its fair share of the river's wa­ter. -Afp

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