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Bashir Pledges Peace in Southern Sudan


Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir says he is fully committed to a peace accord with former southern Sudanese rebels. The Sudanese leader made the remark during a three-day visit to South Africa that concluded Wednesday. Correspondent Scott Bobb reports from Johannesburg.

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, says the 21-year-old war with the southern rebels is over. Speaking through an interpreter during a dinner Tuesday in Capetown, Mr. Bashir said his government was committed to the implementation in letter and in spirit of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, called C.P.A.

"We would like to assure you that there will be no return to war, whatsoever the differences between the CPA parties," Mr. al-Bashir said.

Tensions between the Bashir government and the former southern rebels have risen since the southerners withdrew from the government of national unity. They accuse the Bashir government of failing to implement the Agreement by not withdrawing government troops from their oil-rich region.

The Sudanese government says these are technical problems.

Mr. Bashir held lengthy talks with South African President Thabo Mbeki during which they discussed the north-south tensions as well as violence in western Sudan's Darfur region.

Negotiations between the Sudanese government and various rebel groups in Darfur stalled last month after two major groups refused to attend peace talks in Libya.

Mr. Mbeki urged the factions to join the talks and called for a speedy end to the conflict in Darfur.

"The international community should take firm action against anybody who willfully absents themselves from these negotiations, choosing to engage in violent actions against (the) innocent people of Darfur," Mr. Mbeki said.

An estimated 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur in clashes and raids by government-backed militias and various rebel groups.

After lengthy negotiations, the Sudanese government agreed to the deployment early next year of a joint-peacekeeping force of 26,000 troops under the African Union and the United Nations. The troops are to strengthen a seven-thousand troop African peacekeeping force already in place.

The Bashir government wants most of the new troops to come from African countries.

Mr. Mbeki said the joint force should be deployed to Darfur without delay.

He said South Africa would consider increasing its contribution of 600 peacekeeping troops, but he added that this was subject to constraints posed by South Africa's troop commitments in other African countries.

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