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Southern Ministers Set to Rejoin Sudan Government


Southern Sudan's main political party has said its ministers will rejoin a national unity government. As Derek Kilner reports for VOA from Nairobi, a dispute between North and South over the status of the disputed Abyei region is still unresolved.

The former rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement withdrew their ministers from a power-sharing national government in October over complaints that their partner in the North, the National Congress Party, was failing to implement a 2005 peace agreement.

But following a meeting Tuesday between Sudan's President Omar Bashir and Vice President Salva Kiir, who is also president of the semi-autonomous southern government, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, known as the SPLM, agreed that its ministers would rejoin the government.

SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum announced the decision in Khartoum late Tuesday.

"The chairman of the SPLM will be issuing directives to the SPLM ministers to return to the government any time form now as the resolutions and orders are being worked by the presidency," said Amum. "They will also be consulting on the formation of the government in terms of SPLM components."

Amum said the two sides have agreed to resolve a number of the SPLM's major grievances, including a timetable for withdrawing northern and southern troops from each other's territory; management of oil revenues; and funding for a national census.

A census is a necessary first step before national elections scheduled for 2009 and a referendum on southern secession in 2011.

But left unresolved was the status of the oil-rich Abyei region that sits along the North-South border, and whose boundaries have been the major stumbling block in implementing the peace agreement.

Amum said President Bashir and Vice President Kiir will continue to discuss the issue of Abyei and expressed hope that a solution could be reached as early as Saturday.

But it remains unclear how such a solution will be achieved. A boundary commission established by the peace agreement produced its findings on the region's boundaries in 2005. But the National Congress Party has rejected the commission's findings.

The United Nations estimates that the North-South conflict killed more than two million people between 1983 and 2005. A 10,000 member U.N. peacekeeping force has been deployed since 2005 to support the peace agreement.

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