Sudan's main rebel group has welcomed the planned deployment of United Nations troops in the south of the country once a final deal is signed to end one of Africa's longest wars.
"This is good news. The deployment will go a long way to support the restoration of peace in southern Sudan," Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) spokesman John Garang said in Nairobi.
On Sunday, UN special envoy to Sudan Jan Pronk said in Khartoum that about 7000 UN troops would be deployed in southern Sudan after the signing of a final peace accord by the Khartoum government and the SPLM/A.
Pronk said the troops would be deployed by the end of the year to "monitor respect by the two parties for the peace agreement".
Garang explained that the UN troops will also "monitor a buffer zone that will be created along the south-north boundary after Khartoum withdraws its forces from southern Sudan".
Dead and displaced
Pronk's comments came just days after the Khartoum government and the rebels pledged in writing before the UN Security Council in Nairobi to sign a final accord to end 21 years of conflict in southern Sudan by the end of the year.
Since the mainly Christian and animist south took up arms against the Muslim government in Khartoum in 1983, more than 1.5 million people have died and four million others have been displaced.
The last phase of peace talks between Khartoum and the SPLM/A is due to resume in Kenya on 26 November, before Sudan Deputy President Ali Usman Taha and Garang join in on 6 December.