/ 10 June 2008

UN chief hails Sudan deal over flashpoint oil region

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon on Monday hailed the deal reached by Sudan and southern former rebels to end a dispute over the flashpoint oil-rich region of Abyei.

The UN secretary general ”welcomes the agreement”, which allows for the return of tens of thousands who fled fighting there last month, his press office said in a statement.

”The secretary general particularly welcomes the commitment of the two parties to allow the UN Mission in Sudan unrestricted access and freedom of movement in the Abyei area,” the statement noted.

Ban pledged that the UN would continue to provide aid to the tens of thousands of people displaced after fighting broke out in Abyei last month and stood ”ready to assist their return to Abyei, once security arrangements are put in place”.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir signed the agreement with former rebel leader and First Vice-President Salva Kiir in Khartoum late on Sunday.

Besides allowing for the return of those displaced by fighting in the central region last month, the agreement includes setting up an interim administration and seeking international arbitration to resolve the dispute.

Fighting in Abyei had threatened a return to Sudan’s two-decade civil war — the longest in Africa — which only ended with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005.

Under the 2005 deal, the south was offered a six-year transition period of regional autonomy and participation in a unity government until a 2011 referendum on self-determination. — AFP