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Regional Summit Urges Implementation of Sudanese Peace Plan

Southern Sudan leader Salva Kiir [R-front] and Sudan's 2nd Vice President Ali Osman Taha [L-front] attend the 14th Extra Ordinary Summit of the Inter-Governmental Authority Heads of State and Government at the Kenyatta International Conference Center in

Delegations from Sudan's north and south met in Nairobi, Kenya, at a special regional summit overseeing the implementation of the 2005 peace deal between the two sides.

The special summit of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development adopted a final resolution urging northern and southern Sudan factions to resolve remaining disputes in the peace agreement, including finalizing the North-South border demarcation and creating an official referendum commission.

In a speech before the conference, South Sudan President Salva Kiir reminded the gathered officials of the role the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development had played in building the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. "The CPA is a historic event in the lives of the Sudanese people, and it is incumbent upon those of you who successfully administered it to ensure that it is implemented to the spirit and letter," he said.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was invited, but did not attend the meeting in Nairobi. Kenya is a party to the founding statute of the International Criminal Court, which issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Bashir on Darfur-related crimes one year ago.

Bashir's ruling NCP party was represented by 2nd Vice President Ali Osman Taha. He said the South's decision in the secession vote would be respected, although he stated that unity is the preferred option of the NCP.

"Come January 2011 the Southern voters will make their long-anticipated choice between unity and secession. While we re-affirm our unequivocal commitment to respect the choice of the people of Southern Sudan, we clearly state our vision and hope that unity of Sudan will be the free choice and outcome of the referendum," said Taha.

Next month, national elections are to be held to determine seats in national offices and in the semi-autonomous southern government.

Next January, the South is slated to vote in a landmark independence referendum, which is seen as the core provision of the peace deal signed five years ago. Most analysts expect the South to choose secession if given the chance.

Speakers at the summit stressed both parties must immediately begin negotiations on post-referendum arrangements. The two sides split the revenue from oil reserves found in southern territory, but no agreement has been made about whether revenue-sharing would continue in the case of Southern independence.

Nearly all of the southern Sudan government budget is derived from this oil revenue.

The IGAD members also praised the two sides for recently resolving a long impasse over official census results. They agreed that Southern representation in the nation's next national assembly would be increased by 40 seats over previous announced allotments. Southern officials had alleged the census figures undercounted Southerners.

Kenya hosted the negotiations that led to the peace agreement. About two million Sudanese, mostly Southerners, were killed during the 21-year war.