Top powers press Sudan on peace deal ahead of vote

Envoys from the UN Security Council's top powers have called on Sudan's feuding parties to urgently implement a 2005 peace accord and prepare for 2010 elections.

Top envoys from Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and the European Union "underlined the urgency of progress to further efforts for the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement," a US statement said.

The six powers also "urged the parties to reach agreement as soon as possible on arrangements for free and fair national elections in 2010 and the 2011 referendum, as well as on a work-plan to address issues of shared interest that will arise after 2011."

A peace deal was reached in January 2005 to end a North-South war that saw largely Christian rebels pitted against the Khartoum government.

Soldiers from the Sudan People's Liberation Army sit atop a tank in the city of Juba

Under the deal, the south has a six-year transitional period of regional autonomy and takes part in a unity government until a 2011 referendum on self-determination.

But North-South tensions remain high, with the country still divided by the same religious, ethnic and ideological differences that fueled a 22-year civil war.

More than 2,000 people have died and 250,000 been displaced in inter-tribal violence across the south since January, according to the United Nations, with the rate of violent deaths now exceeding that of war-torn Darfur in west Sudan.

Former rebels, some of who now hold posts in a unity government, have threatened to boycott presidential, parliamentary and local elections slated for April 2010, if laws guaranteeing basic freedoms are not passed.

They would be the African country's first general elections since 1986.

Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir, wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity, has offered the opposition talks to try to resolve the issue.

The six international powers, in their Moscow meeting on Tuesday, called for "further efforts and stronger political commitment by all parties in Sudan to build lasting peace."

It was the second meeting held by the group since it was convened to address the crisis in May.

source AFP

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