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South Votes On Ratification Of  Sudanese Peace Agreement

The legislative body of the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement is meeting in Rumbek, a town in southern Sudan that is likely to be the south's new capital.

Members will decide whether they will ratify the comprehensive peace agreement, signed earlier this month in Kenya's capital, Nairobi.

A spokesman for the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement, Yasser Arman, says he thinks that the more than 130 legislative body members will vote yes.

"They are going to vote to ratify the agreement," said Mr. Arman. "All the indications [are] that they are going to vote positively and they are going to ratify the agreement."

The comprehensive peace agreement that the rebels and government signed January 9 spells out how the north and south are to share wealth and power, how they will manage their armies jointly and separately, and the balance between state and religion, among other issues.

This was to end more than two decades of war between the largely Muslim north and the Christian and animist south. The fighting also centered on oil-rich areas in the south where local populations had been forcibly removed to get to the oil.

Under the agreement, the semi-autonomous south will be able to vote after six years on whether or not to secede from Sudan or stay as one country.

Spokesman Mr. Arman said part of the discussions in Rumbek revolved around how the agreement would improve north-south relations. "Simply, the south want[s] to be equal to the north. If the peoples in Sudan wants unity, then the north and central government should make unity attractive - that [is] what exactly the agreement said," he said.

The Sudanese government also needs to ratify the agreement. A spokesman told VOA the government is expected to do this Tuesday, as Monday is a holiday in Sudan.