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North Sudan Army Demobilizes Southern Members

Soliders of the Sudan People's Liberation Army march during a rehearsal for Saturday's independence celebrations for the new Republic of South Sudan, in the southern capital of Juba, July 5, 2011

The army of north Sudan is demobilizing some 15,000 southerners from its ranks, as the south gets set to declare independence.

The pro-government Sudanese Media Center reports there will be a dismissal ceremony Thursday in Khartoum, to be addressed by Defense Minister Abdel Rahim Mohammed Hussain.

The new Republic of South Sudan is due to declare independence on Saturday. The north and south are trying to disentangle themselves, but the sides have yet to resolve issues on borders and oil revenue.

The north's army is currently fighting pro-southern elements in the northern-controlled state of Southern Kordofan.

Meanwhile, rehearsals are underway for Saturday's celebrations in the south's capital, Juba. Authorities have closed streets so organizers can prepare for the main independence ceremony and other festivities.

Some 30 African heads of state are expected to attend, including Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

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