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Sudan, ex-rebels to firm up ceasefire deal
by Staff Writers
Khartoum (AFP) June 29, 2011

The Sudanese government and ex-rebels were to firm up a ceasefire for ethnically divided South Kordofan on Wednesday after agreeing to end deadly unrest that has driven thousands from their homes.

Khartoum and the northern arm of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement signed a preliminary deal on Tuesday for the border state, where fighting has raged since June 5 between government forces and militia aligned to the former rebel army, the SPLA.

"The issue of the ceasefire will be discussed (Wednesday). This agreement is a prelude to ending the hostilities ... I hope it was signed in good faith," Malik Agar, who heads the SPLM north and was one of the three signatories to the accord, told AFP.

The two other signatories were top presidential aide Nafie Ali Nafie and the chief African Union mediator Thabo Mbeki.

The framework agreement pledges to pave the way for comprehensive political and security arrangements for Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, which lie on the northern side of the border with south Sudan but are home to a large number of SPLM supporters.

An SPLM minister said on Wednesday that the agreement aimed for a full ceasefire in South Kordofan, and did not necessarily mean plans for an intervention force will be scrapped.

"In South Kordofan there was an agreement on general principles on cessation of hostilities ... the intention is to arrive to a ceasefire," Deng Alor, SPLM minister for cooperation, told AFP on the sidelines of African Union meetings in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

The conflict in South Kordofan has dramatically escalated tensions between north and south in the run-up to southern independence on July 9.

Although reliable casualty figures have been unobtainable because of heavy restrictions on the movement of UN agencies and non-governmental organisations, diplomats say the numbers could run into the hundreds.

The fighting erupted after a disputed election for the state governor, which the SPLM's candidate withdrew from alleging fraud, and following the army's insistence on disarming southern-aligned troops thought to number about 40,000 in the two states.

The agreement stipulates "any disarmament shall be done in accordance with agreed upon plans and without resorting to force."

The SPLA from the two states are to be integrated into the northern army "over a period of time and with modalities to be agreed upon," or demobilised.

It also envisages the immediate formation of a joint political committee to ensure "the issue of governance in South Kordofan shall be discussed and resolved amicably... within 30 days."

Senior officials of Khartoum's ruling National Congress Party, which eventually won the South Kordofan election unopposed, have said the SPLM, as the ruling party of the south, should not be allowed to continue in the north in its present form.

Tuesday's agreement affirms the right of the SPLM north to continue as a legal political party.

It also extends beyond July 9 the incomplete "popular consultation process," which gives the residents of Blue Nile and South Kordofan the chance to express publicly how well they believe the 2005 peace accord has been implemented.

The United Nations says the fighting in South Kordofan has displaced more than 70,000 people.

Church leaders and activists say the army's campaign forms part of a government policy of ethnic cleansing, targeting the Nuba peoples who fought with the SPLA during its 1983-2005 war with Khartoum, claims the government strongly denies.

Two air strikes on the rebel stronghold of Um Dorain took place on Tuesday, a source there said, with displaced civilians sheltering under trees to avoid being spotted from the air.

The beleaguered UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan, meanwhile, reported separate bomb attacks on other rebel strongholds earlier in the week.

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Poland discovers major new natural gas deposit
Warsaw (AFP) June 28, 2011
Gas prospectors in Poland have discovered new deposits estimated at 100 billion cubic metres which could double the country's domestic resources, Economy Minister Waldemar Pawlak said Tuesday. "If the estimates of experts are confirmed, the deposits in the region of Kutno would double our reserves," Pawlak said in a statement, referring to a part of central Poland. Poland's proven natura ... read more

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