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Sudan Gov't, Rebels Agree to Share Oil Revenues - 2003-12-21


The Sudanese government and the country's main rebel group have moved one-step closer to agreeing on how to share the country's wealth.

The Kenyan mediator of the ongoing Sudanese peace talks, retired General Lazaro Sumbeiywo, says the Sudanese government and the southern-based Sudan Peoples' Liberation Army have agreed in principle to share oil revenues, but are still working out the exact percentages.

One source close to the talks, who asked not to be named, said the two sides have agreed in principle that oil revenues should be equally shared. Current discussions are said to also center on the type of currency the divided country would use in times of peace. At the moment, the north uses the Sudanese Dinar, in the south the unit is the New Sudan Pound. They are discussing a proposal in which Sudan would temporarily use both currencies.

The rebels also want to establish a Bank of Southern Sudan.

Sources close to the talks speculate the wealth-sharing issue could be settled by Tuesday.

An unequal distribution of wealth between north and south Sudan was a major cause of the country's civil war, which has been raging since 1983 and has claimed an estimated two million lives.

The conflict has pitted the largely Christian and African south against the Islamic, Arab north. But analysts say the war has also been brought about by a struggle for resources and political equality.

The rebels say people living in the oil-rich south do not have an equal share in the country's vast oil revenues. Scores of national and international human rights investigations have accused the government of bombing and violently displacing southerners from oil-rich areas.

According to United States government statistics, Sudan produced an average of more than 200,000 barrels of oil a day last year and is now producing up to 300,000 barrels a day. Oil revenues now account for about 70 percent of Sudan's total export earnings.

After the two sides agree on wealth sharing, they still need to work out how to share power and the administration of three disputed areas in central Sudan - the Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile, and Abyei. These areas technically belong to the north, but according to the rebels, should be under the jurisdiction of the south.

Despite their many differences, the two sides are expected to sign a comprehensive peace deal early in the new year.

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