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July 6 (Bloomberg) -- Former South African President Thabo Mbeki will travel to Sudan today to meet that country’s leader, Umar al-Bashir, over cease-fire talks in the north’s Southern Kordofan state, a regional governor said.
Delegations from the Sudanese government and the northern branch of the south’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, or SPLM, signed a framework agreement last week in Ethiopia to prepare for talks to end clashes in Southern Kordofan, northern Sudan’s only oil-producing state. The agreement was brokered by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel on Sudan, led by Mbeki.
Al-Bashir has “reservations” about the accord, said Malik Agar, governor of Sudan’s Blue Nile state and the head of the SPLM’s northern branch, in an interview today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. He declined to say what al-Bashir’s concerns are. “If Bashir does not respond positively, there will be no talks,” Agar said.
Rabie Abdel Ati, a senior member of al-Bashir’s National Congress Party and adviser to the information minister, did not answer calls to his mobile phone seeking comment.
Clashes between Sudanese government forces and units of Southern Sudan’s army in Southern Kordofan have led to more than 73,000 people fleeing their homes since June 5, according to the United Nations. The fighting there and in the disputed border region of Abyei raised concern of a resumption of a two-decade civil war that ended in 2005.
The SPLM “will not talk without a third party,” Agar said. Mbeki’s African Union panel was mandated as the third party for the talks in last week’s deal.
The Sudanese army will continue its military operations against what it describes as ”rebels” in Southern Kordofan, as ”no cease-fire agreement has been signed yet,” Sudanese army spokesman Al-Sawarmi Khaled said by phone from Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, today. Both sides blame each other for starting the violence in Southern Kordofan.
The U.S. is ”concerned that President Bashir has raised objections to the political and security framework agreement,” the State Department said in an e-mailed statement today. It urged the government to work with the African Union panel ”to overcome any objections so the vitally important discussions called for in that agreement can proceed.”
Southern Sudan is set to become independent from the north on July 9.
--Editors: Emily Bowers, John Simpson.
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