Some Arab states, particularly Sudan’s northern neighbour Egypt, fear ongoing talks between the Sudanese government and southern rebels could lead to secession and instability in their countries.

The two sides have already agreed to a referendum on secession.

Some two million people have been killed since war erupted in 1983. Peace talks are to resume in Kenya this week, after hitting a snag over the latest proposals from mediators.

“Our main objective is to work on the development of southern Sudan as part of efforts to make unity an attractive option,” said Samir Hosni, head of the League’s African and Afro-Arab Co-operation Department.

“We have received pledges from the Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development and Arab states. Some $117 million are ready to be used to finance and implement projects, such as a main road linking the north and the south,” said Hosni.

But he said the development of the south was not a “bribe” to get southerners to vote for unity in the future referendum.

Moussa (L) was the first Arab
League chief to visit in 50 years

“If southern Sudan chooses secession after the referendum, we will respect fully the decision of the southern Sudanese people and we will continue our role to preserve the common interests there and in order to have good relations with a new…neighbour,” said Hosni.

Arab League leader Amr Moussa last month became the first leader of the pan-Arab body to visit southern Sudan in 50 years.

Sudan last week rejected some proposals put forward by mediators but said it would resume talks this week.

Fighting continues

Meanwhile, a Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) leader said Sudanese government warplanes carried out bombing raids on two dozen villages, killing at least 300 villagers and wounding 200 others in the last three days.

“Twenty-five villages in northwest Darfur have been set ablaze and bombed by Antonov-type planes from the government forces,” SLM leader Mani Arkoi Minawi told the French news agency AFP.

He said several people among the 200 wounded were victims of a “toxic gas” that he did not specify. Last month Minawi had accused the government of using poisonous gas and biological weapons against the people in Darfur.

There was no immediate reaction from the Sudanese government about the allegations. There were no independent verifications of the report.

The SLM was founded in 2001 under the name of the Darfur Liberation Movement, before using its current name in February when it began claiming responsibility for several anti-government attacks.