Sudan's war-torn South Kordofan state is to be divided, giving separate status to the western part dominated by nomadic Arab Misseriya tribesmen.
Vice-president Ali Osman Taha "announces the establishment of West Kordofan state," the official Sudan News Agency said in a brief dispatch on Thursday.
The move recreates the state of West Kordofan which was eliminated in 2005 following a peace agreement between Khartoum and the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement (SPLM) that ended a 23-year civil war.
At that time Khartoum agreed to unite West and South Kordofan in line with calls from SPLM, which was supported by ethnic fighters based in the Nuba Mountains that straddle South and West Kordofan.
The boundary between the two states fell just west of Kadugli, capital of South Kordofan where Nuba rebels formerly allied to the southern insurgents have been fighting since June last year, shortly before the South separated after an overwhelming 'yes' vote in a referendum.
The rebellion by the SPLM-North – which Khartoum alleges is backed by South Sudan – is concentrated in the eastern half of the state.
West Kordofan is home to most of cash-strapped Sudan's oilfields as well as to the territory of Abyei, whose final status was the most sensitive issue left unresolved when South Sudan became independent.
Sudan and South Sudan failed to settle the Abyei issue by a December 5 African Union deadline. The AU has proposed that a referendum be held next October on whether the territory joins Sudan or South Sudan.
Under that plan, members of the Dinka, a dominant South Sudanese tribe who live in the Abyei area, would have the right to vote along with Sudanese with "permanent abode".
The Misseriya, who regularly graze their animals and move through Abyei, strongly object to the plan. – Sapa-AFP