Sudan ex-rebels withdraw from northern areas: general

JUBA, Sudan
January 10, 2008 (AFP)

South Sudan former rebels have left contested northern areas, implementing a key protocol of the troubled peace agreement that required north and south to re-deploy to their respective sides.

The announcement, by a general in the southern army, came after the south on Tuesday said northern troops had left occupied areas in the oil-rich south as part of a deal that brought southern ministers back to the unity government after resigning in October.

Troops from the ex-rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army troops had started heading south ahead of an initial July 9, 2007 deadline, but halted their movement at signs that the northern troops were not reciprocating.

Deputy chief of staff Major General Hoth Mai said on Thursday that the ex-rebels had been moving in the past month but that the withdrawal had been tough owing to the absence of roads.

"These are jungle areas," Hoth said. "They move one, two days, and rest; one, two days, and rest."

Hoth said the withdrawal of 7,000 troops from Blue Nile, a northern state that borders the south, is "100-percent complete."

The ex-rebels also had 5,000 in the Nuba Mountains. Hoth said their withdrawal was complete save for less than 100 troops, who would reach the southern areas late Thursday or Friday.

Transport problems have also slowed the march of northern troops

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