The leader of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA)John Garang said late on Wednesday it would be up to the central government to make sure southerners would want to remain in a united Sudan and not vote for secession after a six-year transition period.
"The onus is on the central government to make unity attractive, because if it is not attractive nobody is going to marry on to unity," said Garang.
The SPLA has been fighting the government in the north for more autonomy for the largely Christian and animist south for 21 years. The war, in which two million people have been killed mainly by hunger and disease, is complicated by factors such as ethnicity, religion, ideology and economics.
Under a series of peace accords signed over the past two years, the mainly African south of the oil-exporting nation of 32 million will have the right to independence from the north after a transition period of six years.
Mediators expect the two sides to nail down the remaining issues – ceasefire arrangements and how to implement a final peace deal - within two months of resuming talks on 22 June.
Many Sudanese in the south, where most of Sudan's oil is produced, believe the revenues from the petroleum produced from their soil should be theirs alone. At present revenues running at more than $3 billion annually go to the government in Khartoum, little of which is spent in the impoverished south.
Disease and hunger have killed
millions over last 21 years
A wealth-sharing agreement signed in January by Garang and Khartoum gives a new interim central government 50% of oil revenues and 50% to a new southern local authority.
The southern authority is expected to spend its share of the revenue on southern development, but Garang suggested that without big spending in the south by the new central government as well, the deal would be insufficiently attractive to southerners to persuade them to vote to stay in a united Sudan.
Garang said southerners wanted roads, development of navigable waterways and the installation of a telephone system. At present the south, twice the size of France, has few roads.
The peace accords will not cover a separate conflict in the western Darfur region, where the rights groups says militias have been carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against black Africans, displacing more than one million.
Garang reiterated that for peace to be meaningful, it would have to prevail over all the country - especially in Darfur, eastern Sudan, and in the Upper Nile's Shilluk kingdom, where rights groups says Arab militias have been carrying out attacks on black Africans in a manner very similar to Darfur.