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North, South Sudan Try to Finalize Deal on Abyei


People shout during a an Islamic Liberation Party rally to support the Sudanese Armed Forces and condemn the intervention of international peacekeepers in Abyei in Khartoum on June 11, 2011.

People shout during a an Islamic Liberation Party rally to support the Sudanese Armed Forces and condemn the intervention of international peacekeepers in Abyei in Khartoum on June 11, 2011.

Negotiators for north and south Sudan remain in talks to finalize a reported deal on the disputed Abyei region.

VOA correspondent Peter Heinlein says the presidents of north and south Sudan have left the talks in Ethiopia's capital, but that meetings with lower-level officials continue.

North Sudan's army seized control of oil-rich Abyei last month, prompting tens of thousands of residents to flee the region.

On Monday, African Union (AU) mediators said the sides had agreed in principle to demilitarize Abyei and to allow Ethiopian peacekeepers into the area.

Southern official Arop Deng told reporters Tuesday that the sides are now exclusively focused on security issues in Abyei.

Both north and south Sudan claim ownership of Abyei. The dispute has raised fears of renewed war in Sudan as the south prepares to declare independence on July 9.

The United Nations refugee agency is pleading for access to the Sudanese state of Southern Kordofan, where northern troops have been fighting southern-aligned militia for more than a week. An agency spokeswoman says humanitarian flights have been denied authorization to land in the state capital, Kadugli, and that land access is being blocked by militiamen. She says the insecurity has blocked the agency from reaching a warehouse with supplies to assist 10,000 people.

The U.N. agency says the fighting in Southern Kordofan has displaced more than 40,000 people and killed at least 10 civilians.

North and south Sudan fought a 21-year civil war that ended with a 2005 peace deal. The south voted overwhelmingly to split from the north in a January referendum.

Abyei was scheduled to hold a separate referendum on whether to join the north or south, but the poll failed to happen because the sides could not agree on who was eligible to vote.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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