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Voter registration has begun in Sudan for the country's first multi-party elections in 24 years.
Officials with Sudan's national election commission say registration centers opened across the country Sunday. Journalists report seeing a trickle of would-be voters register in the capital, Khartoum.
Sudanese voters will elect a president, parliament and state governors in the elections, scheduled for next April.
The planned elections are a key part of the 2005 peace agreement that ended a 21-year civil war between northern and southern Sudan.
The now semi-autonomous south is scheduled to hold a separate vote on secession in 2011.
On Saturday, southern Sudanese president Salva Kiir urged his region's voters to choose independence. He said voting for a unified Sudan would leave southerners "second-class" citizens in their own country.
The speech marks the first time Mr. Kiir, who also serves as vice president in Sudan's northern-based central government, has openly called for the south to secede.
Sudanese voters have one month to register for next year's polls. The United Nations is helping to distribute registration materials to Sudan's 25 state capitals and dozens of more remote areas in southern Sudan and Darfur.
Sudan last held democratic elections in 1986. Current President Omar al-Bashir seized power in a 1989 coup and has remained in power ever since.
The president is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur, where his government has been fighting rebels since 2003.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.