Sudan's Bashir agrees to Abyei withdrawal-diplomats

Addis Abeba
12 June, 2011 (Reuters)

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has agreed to pull northern troops out of the disputed Abyei border region before the south secedes on July 9, diplomats said on Sunday.

"President Bashir has agreed to pull his troops out before July 9 with Ethiopia sending two battalions as peacekeepers. They will be deployed under the U.N. flag," one diplomat, who asked not to be named, said.

Bashir was in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa to meet the south's President Salva Kiir to discuss Abyei and other unresolved issues ahead of the split, which southerners voted for in a January referendum.

The two sides have yet to agree on a number of sensitive issues such as where to draw the common border and how to share oil revenues, complicating the split. The status of Abyei has been one of the most contentious issues.

Khartoum moved tanks and troops into the fertile, oil-producing region on May 21, raising fears the two sides could return to open conflict. Tens of thousands fled the fighting.

The occupation followed an attack on northern troops and U.N. peacekeepers that was blamed on southern forces.

Ethiopia has said it would consider sending peacekeeping troops to the region if both Khartoum and Juba requested them.

"The (Ethiopian) unit has already been identified and is only waiting for a green light from the U.N. Security Council," the diplomat added.

A second diplomat confirmed Bashir had agreed to the troop withdrawal and to the Ethiopian troop deployment.

The January independence referendum was promised by a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of brutal civil war between north and south.


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