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Sudan's Ruling Party, Former Southern Rebels Hold Landmark Talks

Sudan's ruling party and former southern Sudanese rebels are meeting for the first time since signing a peace agreement in January 2005.

The meeting in Khartoum is focused on implementing the accord, which ended Sudan's north-south civil war.

President Omar al-Bashir and First Vice President Salva Kiir expressed hope Saturday that issues blocking implementation can be resolved.

Kiir - a former rebel leader - said these include the slowness at which government forces are being withdrawn from the south, and a delay in marking off the north-south boundary. He also called for fair distribution of oil revenue and resolution of a dispute over the oil-producing Abyei region.

An estimated 1.5 million people died during Sudan's 21-year north-south civil war.

The former rebels and Sudan's ruling National Congress party are now part of a national unity government.

The peace accord outlines a structure for power and wealth-sharing between Sudan's mainly Muslim north and the Christian-dominated south.

But the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based research institute, has said Sudan faces the risk of new conflict unless the ruling party starts to implement the deal in good faith. It also has said the former southern rebels must become a more effective implementation partner.

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