Sudan ‘on the brink’ of resuming civil war: UN official

June 4th, 2008 - 10:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Juba (Sudan), June 4 (DPA) Sudan is “on the brink” of resuming a decades-long civil war as government troops and forces from the former rebel south converge on the oil-rich town of Abyei, a UN official said Wednesday. Heavy fighting broke out in Abyei between government forces from the Muslim-majority north and southern forces in mid-May, forcing over 50,000 civilians to flee.

A ceasefire was signed, but the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) from the largely Christian south has accused Khartoum of building up troops around the town.

However, the UN’s regional co-coordinator for South Sudan David Gressley told the BBC that forces from both sides were converging on the town.

Gressley said he did not believe either side wanted a war, but pointed out that the conflict had the potential to derail the peace process.

The UN Security Council, led by Britain’s UN Ambassador John Sawers, is currently in Sudan trying to defuse the crisis and cement the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended a conflict that claimed over two million lives.

Tensions have remained high in the Abyei area since 2005 as it sits near the disputed border between the northern and southern regions and has significant oil deposits. The two sides have yet to agree on borders or a government for the region.

Under the 2005 peace deal, the autonomous southern Sudan is to run a referendum in 2011 to decide whether is should claim complete independence.

The Abyei region, which was given a special administrative status, will at the same time vote on whether to stay in the north or join the south.

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