Sudan president vows to honour landmark peace deal

Jan 1 (AFP)

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Beshir pledged Saturday that his government would honour a landmark peace deal with southern rebels to end Africa's longest-running civil war.

"We are committed to implementing the agreements we reached at Naivasha and to pressing ahead with the reconstruction of all Sudan's war zones," Beshir told MPs, a day after attending the signing in the Kenyan town of the last of the component agreements of a full peace deal to be signed on January 9.

The president told MPs he did not believe that southerners would necessarily opt to break away in an independence referendum promised in six years' time.

"We shall strive to make national unity an attractive choice through our reconstruction and development efforts," he said.

Beshir was addressing parliament on the 49th anniversary of independence from Britain and said the anniversary would in future also commemorate peace.

Visiting South African President Thabo Mbeki also delivered a short speech, congratulating Sudan on the peace deal and saying he hoped the country could now become a model of "unity in diversity" for the rest of Africa.

Mbeki, who earlier made a lightning visit with Beshir to Sudan's other main war zone, the western region of Darfur, said he had received a message from the two ethnic minority rebel groups there indicating their desire for peace.

The Islamist opposition Popular Congress party meanwhile issued a statement welcoming the Naivasha deal.

The party, whose main leaders are all in jail following government accusations of a coup plot earlier this year, said it looked forward to the implementation of the deal's protocols concerning human rights.

These include ending the state of emergency and guaranteeing political, trade union and press freedoms.