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Sudan leaders close to oil town deal

June 04, 2008
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According to Reuters, leaders from northern and southern Sudan are close to a deal on ending clashes over a contested oil town that have raised fears of a return to civil war, Sudan''s U.N. ambassador said recently.

But southern officials were cautious and said key issues still needed to be resolved.

Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem said Sudan''s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir would meet the leader of semi-autonomous South Sudan in Khartoum on Thursday evening and that the situation is nearing a solution.

But southern officials told Reuters they were still waiting for final confirmation of the meeting before Southern President Salva Kiir would leave the southern capital, Juba.

Kiir is also first vice president of Sudan under a coalition government set up in a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of north-south civil war.

Heavy clashes between northern and southern troops in Abyei last month killed more than 20 soldiers and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes. Analysts warned the situation could escalate and drag the region back into civil war.

At stake is control over a large part of Sudan''s oil wealth. Abyei is surrounded by lucrative oilfields and includes a pipeline that analysts say carried about half of Sudan''s 500,000-barrel daily output.

Northern and southern leaders have failed to reach an agreement over the borders and administration of Abyei.

Abdalhaleem told Reuters Bashir and Kiir would meet soon, ahead of another meeting between Bashir and members of the U.N.''s Security Council who are currently visiting Sudan.

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