Khartoum: Sudan`s foreign minister has assured the UN Security Council that the government is committed to holding a referendum on southern independence that is expected to split the country in two.
Addressing Security Council members wrapping up a fact-finding trip to Sudan and Uganda, Ali Karti said the government`s sole condition was no outside interference in the referendum.
"We are fully committed to holding the referendum on time," Karti told the visiting members of the Council, the UN`s most powerful arm. "We want it on time, but it must be arranged properly.... We do not want any interference in the referendum, this is the only condition."
Underlining the tensions surrounding the vote, clashes erupted between southern pro-secession demonstrators and pro-unity northerners staging a rally in Khartoum, witnesses
said. Some 70 southerners were arrested, and at least five
people were wounded, according to the witnesses.
Preparations for the Jan 9 referendum have proceeded
haltingly amid political and logistical obstacles, and the
southerners have accused the northerners of stalling, warning
of violence if the vote is delayed.
The referendum is required by a 2005 peace agreement that
ended the 21-year civil war between Sudan`s predominantly Arab
and Muslim north and rebels in the largely Christian-animist
The vote is open to all southerners whether they live in
the north or the south, but determining who is eligible to
vote has also been a source of tension.
Mark Lyall Grant, the British ambassador to the UN, told
reporters today that the Council wants to see a concerted push
to resolve the many "key outstanding issues," such as funding
and citizenship, before a vote can be held.