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Sudan Official: Bashir 'Blackmailing' South Over Elections

A Southern Sudanese official says Khartoum has cut off talks with the South in a move to pressure the South's ruling party into withdrawing its candidate for Sudanese presidency. The official said that his party was now seeking outside intervention to ensure the peace agreement is honored.

Southern Sudan's head of mission in Kenya, John Andruga Duku, told reporters in Nairobi the Bashir government is using the ongoing peace talks to "blackmail" the South's ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement into supporting President Bashir's incumbent candidacy.

"We learned yesterday that [National Congress Party] suspended their dialogue with SPLM on condition that they can only resume this dialogue if SPLM withdraws its candidacy for presidency of the republic of Sudan," he said.

SPLM, the political wing of the former southern rebels, have nominated a Muslim northerner, Yasir Arman, for Sudan president. The chair of the party and current president of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, opted to run to retain his southern office instead of seeking the national seat.

On Wednesday the NCP announced it would not run a candidate against Mr. Kiir for the Southern presidency, asking SPLM to reciprocate by supporting Mr. Bashir's candidacy in the national race. Southern officials immediately dismissed the statement and accused their northern partners of financing the campaign of a southern opposition party.

Sudan Official: Bashir 'Blackmailing' South Over Elections
Sudan Official: Bashir 'Blackmailing' South Over Elections

Sudan is to hold its first multi-party elections in more than 20 years this April. The democratic vote was agreed to as part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended a decades-long North-South civil war.

But the vote appears to be straining relations between the two peace partners.

The rulers of the semi-autonomous South are threatening to reject the parliamentary part of the polls unless a political deal is reached to let the southern territory retain its current portion of seats in the next parliament. Southerners allege census figures used to determine constituencies severely undercounted their numbers.

Northern officials say the census figures are legally binding.

Duku says that due to SPLM's current stalemate with Khartoum, the former rebels are seeking the mediation of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, known as IGAD, a regional bloc composed of six Horn of African nations. IGAD was instrumental in forging the 2005 pact.

"We are asking IGAD, the custodian to this peace agreement, immediately to convene an extraordinary summit, in which both parties - the SPLM and National Congress Party - will be called upon to provide an evaluation on the CPA," he said.

The Sudan peace deal also calls for a self-determination referendum for the South to take place one year from now. During anniversary celebrations of the peace deal last week, Mr. Bashir announced that the North would honor its commitment and accept a southern independence vote.

Southerners are thought to overwhelmingly favor secession.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said Tuesday the U.S. administration is "concerned" that possible arms flows from the North are contributing to inter-ethnic violence in the South. Khartoum has categorically denounced such charges.