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KHARTOUM, 31 December 2010: The top United Nations official in Sudan Friday praised the leaders of both North and South for their close cooperation ahead of the southern region’s referendum on independence, the culminating stage of the accord that ended 20 years of civil war between the two.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Southern Sudanese President Salva Kiir should both get greater credit “for the political leadership, courage and determination that taking such a correct but difficult route entails,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Haile Menkerios said in a message marking the 55th anniversary of Sudan’s independence on 1 January.

“I personally commend them for their leadership, for the committed implementation of the peace process the two parties so boldly charted in 2005, and I call on all international partners of Sudan to join me in encouraging both leaders and all Sudanese to continue on this path, and for these partners to increase their support to both sides so that there is stability in both North and South, in unity or separation”, he wrote.

While praising progress made towards holding the 9 to 15 January referendum, Mr. Menkerios regretted the lack of accord on the terms of a simultaneous (samtidig) referendum over whether the oil-rich Abyei region should join the North or South.

Misseriya nomadic cattle-herders in the region, linked to the North, have clashed with the Dinka ethnic group located in Abyei, in the past.

– The failure so far to implement the referendum in Abyei, or to find a solution to the issue in a way that satisfies the aspirations of all concerned, is a sore point that still has to be addressed, he said, calling for a solution to be found “in the shortest possible time,” and praising the “communities in Abyei for their patience and restraint in the face of the legitimate anxiety about their future and that of their children.

– The situation in Abyei is tense and the settlement of the dispute over the territory’s future is complex, but it is not impossible to solve and much progress has been made by the parties so far in that direction, noted he.

Summing up the past year, he noted that both the Sudan Armed Forces and the Sudan’s People Liberation Army in the South exercised restraint in the face of perceived threats and provocations.

Kilde: FNs Nyhedstjeneste