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Sudan's Parliament Approves Draft Interim Constitution

Sudan's parliament Wednesday approved the draft of an interim constitution that is part of the recently signed peace deal between the Khartoum government in the north and the rebels in the south. Approval of the draft is a preliminary step on the road to creating a new government.

The draft interim constitution describes how Sudan is to be governed for the next six years by an interim administration that includes members of southern Sudan's former rebel group, Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement (SPLM).

At the beginning of the year, the Sudanese government and the SPLM signed a peace agreement to end almost 22 years of war that killed two million people and displaced four million more.

The agreement spells out how the two sides will share power, wealth, conduct their security systems, and other arrangements.

As part of the peace deal, a draft constitution was drawn up, enshrining agreements made under the deal.

The draft interim constitution received final reading in Sudan's national assembly Wednesday.

The secretary general of Sudan's External Information Council, Rasheed Khider, tells VOA the interim constitution paves the way not only for a new government, but for what he says will be the eventual resolution of other conflicts in the country.

"So this will enable the Sudan to look positively to the future and be very much optimistic about a final settlement for all different problems in the Sudan," he said.

The new government and constitution are to be in place for six years, after which southerners can decide, through a referendum, whether or not to stay part of Sudan.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick and Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki are among the dignitaries expected to attend Saturday's launch of the new interim government.

During the two-year peace negotiations that led to the interim constitution and government, some analysts called for other rebel groups, most notably those in the western Darfur region and the eastern areas of Red Sea and Kassala, to be included in the negotiations.

They argued that Sudan could not achieve total peace unless the grievances of all parties involved in conflicts were addressed.