Rival factions in Sudan reach agreement

Dec. 13, 2009 at 9:13 PM

KHARTOUM, Sudan, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Sudan's government has reached agreement with the country's semi-autonomous southern region on an independence referendum, authorities say.

The southern Sudanese People's Liberation Movement hailed a "major breakthrough" on laws affecting parliamentary elections in 2010 and a referendum on possible independence in 2011, Radio France Internationale reported Sunday.

In a joint press conference, the ruling National Congress party and SPLM representatives said they had agreed on voting numbers and turnout that would make the referendum binding.

"This takes out between us these issues that have been the cause of serious confrontation between the two parties," the SPLM's Pagan Amum said.

After decades of civil war, northern leaders and rebels in the south signed a peace treaty in 2005 that gave limited autonomous rule to the southern region. Recent tensions between the two factions had threatened that treaty, and police arrested SPLM leaders planning a protest, RFI said.

The 2010 election would be the country's first since 1986.

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