KHARTOUM, Sudan, Oct. 25 (UPI) -- An international group says it welcomes an announcement that the Sudanese government will "respect the results" of a January 2011 vote for southern Sudan.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, completed a three-day visit to the African country Sunday and said the government has put its commitment in writing to conduct the Jan. 9 referendum, Voice of America reported.
Fouad Hikmat, International Crisis Group's African Union and Sudan special adviser, said the assurances given to Kerry were a positive development
"I think it is very good news, and this maybe a reiteration from (Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir) what he just recently said to the Sudanese people through his speech to the national assembly that he is going to work very hard to make sure that the referendum is going to be on time, and that the government is going to respect the results of the referendum provided that it is done in a transparent, free and accurate way," Hikmat said.
During his visit, Kerry warned of tougher U.S. sanctions against Sudan if the governments of north and south Sudan hamper the referendum, VOA said.
Despite the assurances, however, Hikmat said the problem of Abyei and borders remain. The Abyei area has "special administrative status" from the 2004 Protocol in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 that ended civil war in Sudan.
Hikmat said Khartoum wants its relationship with the United States to improve, as well as sanctions lifted and the country's removal from the terrorist watch list. He also said Sudan would like U.S. help with the International Criminal Court's arrest warrant against Bashir for war crimes allegedly committed in Sudan's Darfur region.