The Guardian
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Sudan’s rebel leader urges UN’s verification of north-south clashes


UNITED Nations (UN) peacekeepers should be more active in monitoring violence in Sudan’s south ahead of a key referendum in independence in eight months time, the oil- producing region’s main party has said.

Top Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) official Yasir Arman, according to Reuters, also said they had evidence President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s ruling northern National Congress Party was trying to destabilize the south by arming proxy militias in the semi- autonomous region.

“The United Nations should verify and should be present in all the places where there are violations of the security arrangements,” Arman told reporters. “This is the mandate of the United Nations force here – they should take this mandate… seriously.”

The peacekeeping mission was deployed to monitor a 2005 north-south peace deal ending Africa’s longest running civil war which claimed two million lives. A shaky ceasefire has mostly held with sporadic fighting kept in check through a high-level joint defense body between the former foes.

But last month clashes between the south’s separate army (SPLA) and Darfuri Arab tribes along the disputed north-south border inflicted heavy casualties on both sides. And the SPLA accused a senior renegade commander of attacking an army base killing at least eight soldiers in Jonglei state last week.

The UN mission has not commented on the violence and a spokesman was not immediately available to comment on Saturday.

Arman said the NCP was using the Arab tribes to destabilize the south and delay the referendum.

“The government of south Sudan produced information that the NCP…are trying to destabilize the…security in south Sudan,” Arman said in a news conference in Khartoum.

He added SPLA renegade George Athor was receiving logistical support from outside the south, but did not specify from where.

Al-Bashir’s National Congress Party was not available to comment. During the civil war, Khartoum supported militias to oppose the SPLA, but the party denies this policy since 2005.

Most analysts believe the south is likely to secede in the January 9, 2011 plebiscite and fear a heavily armed population, ethnic rivalries and unresolved border disputes could destabilize any new nation and its neighbors, most of whom were dragged into Sudan’s civil war.

Arman urged the NCP to reinvigorate a joint defense body to calm any north-south clashes and to allow the United Nations access to tense border areas.

“The United Nations, in particular the Security Council, should put an eye on Sudan and make sure that the security arrangements do not collapse,” Arman said.

Sudan’s north-south war has raged on and off since 1955, fueled by issues of ethnicity, ideology, religion and oil.

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