Sudanese president rules out boundary changes in peace deal with south

Jan 13 (AFP)

President Omar al-Beshir vowed Tuesday that his government would not modify administrative boundaries or abandon Islamic Sharia law for the sake of a peace deal with Sudan's southern rebels.

"We will never relinquish the boundaries of January 1, 1956 which nobody has the right even to revoke," Beshir said, quoted by state Omdurman radio.

He said the government delegation to peace talks in Naivasha, Kenya, would uphold the boundaries left behind in 1956 after the end of British rule, as well as Sharia law.

"The negotiating delegation in Naivasha is instructed to observe three axes which are: no relinquishing Islamic Sharia laws, no dismantling of north Sudan and, lastly, unity as a preferable option," Beshir said.

Beshir was talking to reporters in Merowe, about 400 kilometres (250 miles) north of the capital, during an inspection of an electric power dam due for completion in 2008 that will double Sudan's generation of electricity.

Meanwhile, a group claiming to represent the Missairiyah and Dinka Ngok tribes of the central region of Abyei said they opposed any change in the present administrative affiliation of their region from north to south Sudan.

More than a dozen Abyei dignitaries announced their opposition at a press conference.

Khartoum and the southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army on January 7 signed a deal on sharing the oil-rich country's wealth, a key component of efforts to end 20 years of civil war.

But the two sides are still locked in delicate talks over elements of power-sharing and the future status of three disputed areas in the centre of Sudan, including Abyei.

Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said in remarks published in Cairo on Tuesday that he expects a deal ending the civil war in a few weeks.