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US seeks end to Sudan dispute
Special envoy shuttles between north and south after bloody clashes in oil-rich Abyei.
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2008 21:13 GMT
Al-Bashir's National Congress is locked in a power struggle with the SPLM over Abyei's status [AFP]
The US special envoy for Sudan has said that he will travel between northern and southern leaders in an attempt to resolve a crisis in the oil-rich Abyei region.
 
Richard Williamson said on Sunday he will mediate between members of the National Congress of Omar al-Beshir, Sudan's president, and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM).
He had earlier held talks with southern leaders from the SPLM.
 
Williamson said one solution to the power struggle in Abyei, which borders the northern and southern regions of Sudan, would be a wider mandate for foreign peacekeepers to operate in the area.
"If we are going to get humanitarian relief and allow 50,000 [displaced] people to return, we first have to get a sense of security back there and that means a much different arrangement than we've had to date," he said.
 
Peace effort

Sudanese government forces control the main town in Abyei after a round of heavy fighting ended on May 20, and UN peacekeepers are patrolling the streets.

A US-mediated 2005 peace deal that ended Sudan's 21-year civil war between north and south state that joint Sudanese force patrols should be in place in the Abyei region.

Under the deal, Abyei was accorded a special status and was to be governed by a joint administration.

Parts of Abyei saw bitter fighting between
government forces and SPLM loyalists
Twin referendums were earmarked for 2011 to decide whether it remains part of the north or joins the south, and whether the south will secede.

The SPLM is the main coalition partner of the National Congress in the unity government set up under the peace deal.

Williamson said the deployment of a more effective international peacekeeping mission should be "considered".

"There are other options that also have to be considered but the principle of security in Abyei is uncompromisable," he said.

Williamson said he would hold talks with the SPLM to discuss how Abyei would be resolved.

"We think there is a way forward, that there's no excuse to allow this failure to result in ending the chance of real peace in Sudan," he said.

US mediation

Yaser Arman, the SPLM's deputy secretary-general, said US mediation was needed to help implement a protocol on Abyei.

"We in the SPLM see very clearly that the efforts of the United States and the efforts of the special envoy are needed, especially in the implementation of the Abyei Protocol," said Arman.

The National Congress says the south has sparked the fighting by unilaterally appointing its own governor for Abyei.

Deng Alor, Sudan's foreign minister, said peaceful conditions had to be created on the ground so that those displaced by recent fighting can return home.

"For the security situation to change, the South Sudan Armed Forces and any SPLA should also go away so that the people [can] go back," he said.

The SPLM said last week that it would boycott talks between the government and the US in response to the violence in Abyei.

The UN has warned that the conflict could endanger the three-year peace process and threaten a return to civil war.

Source:
Agencies
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