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Sudan's VP Meets with Egypt's Mubarak

Sudanese Vice President Salva Kiir met with President Hosni Mubarak and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa Wednesday to discuss the situation in Darfur, ways to strengthen the Sudanese unity government and the economic development of Southern Sudan. Aya Batrawy reports for VOA from Cairo.

In his first visit to Cairo in over a year, Sudanese VP and head of Southern Sudan government, Salva Kiir, held talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, mainly to discuss strengthening economic ties.

Egypt currently has reconstruction and development projects in autonomous Southern Sudan involving electricity, education, health and water irrigation.

During the meeting, Mr. Mubarak and Mr. Kiir also tackled how to sustain progress for the Sudanese unity government.

Mr. Kiir, who holds the title of Sudan's First Vice President, walked out on the Sudanese government in October but returned two months later after he and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir agreed on a timetable for the deployment of joint units in the oil fields of Southern Sudan.

During his meeting in Cairo, Mr. Kiir and Mr. Mubarak also discussed ways to bring peace to the war-ravaged region of Darfur.

American University in Cairo professor Ibrahim El-Nur, an expert on Sudanese issues, says although the Egyptian government's position on Darfur is closer to that of Sudan's national government in Khartoum, Egypt has always maintained close relations with leaders in Southern Sudan, because they play an important role in bringing peace to Darfur.

"I think it is very interesting that southerners, Southern Sudan may plan a very crucial role in making a breakthrough in the Darfurian crisis, because at least they have the confidence of many of the Darfur armed groups," he said.

Mr. Kiirmet also met with Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa to discuss an upcoming Arab League conference that will focus on enhancing foreign investment in the oil-rich region of Southern Sudan.

Egypt maintains close ties with Sudan after having ruled the country for nearly 50 years until 1956.

Among the most divisive issues between Egypt and Southern Sudan is the construction of the Joglei canal that would divide the water of the White Nile equally between Egypt and Sudan.

The project, which started nearly three decades ago, but was put on hold at the outbreak of the Sudanese civil war in 1984.

Professor El-Nur says that while the canal is of great importance to the Egyptian government, it remains a much lower priority to its Sudanese counterparts.

"The Jonglei canal will remain the most difficult issue being on top for Egypt. It's not a priority for Southern Sudan for the time being," he added.

It is not clear whether Egypt will be able to push the project forward with environmentalists and residents in Southern Sudan opposed to the canal, saying it will cause environmental damage and displacement among residents.