US urges South Sudan to become multiparty state

South Sudan President said ruling party would not create a one-party state.

Juba: The deputy US secretary of state has urged Southern Sudan`s President to see that the soon-to-be-independent nation becomes a multiparty democracy.

James Steinberg says President Salva Kiir said on Wednesday the ruling party would not seek to create a one-party state.

The Sudan People`s Liberation Movement is the political wing of the former guerrilla army that fought against Sudan`s north for more than 20 years in a brutal civil war that killed more than two million.

SPLM dominates politics in Southern Sudan. Opposition parties have expressed concern that the party is not committed to instituting reforms that would enable democracy to develop in the south.

Preliminary reports from last month`s independence vote showed a landslide victory for secession.

The United States will start normalising its ties with Sudan once the outcome of the southern Sudanese independence referendum is approved, Steinberg said on Wednesday.

"Once the results are certified, that will allow us ... to begin to take steps towards normalisation, including dealing with the state sponsors (of terrorism) list, as well as deepening our diplomatic ties," Steinberg told reporters in Khartoum after meeting Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti.

The Khartoum government said on Monday that it accepted the outcome of the January 9-15 vote, after preliminary results showed almost 99 percent of southerners favoured secession from the north.

Final results are expected on Monday, barring appeals.

Karti said on Wednesday that Sudan hoped relations between Washington and Khartoum would be normalised "soon after the results of the referendum".

"For sure, it would make a big difference in (Sudan`s) international relations, on the economic side and on the political side," he added.

During a visit by Karti to Washington last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Sudan for its handling of the referendum, the centrepiece of a 2005 peace agreement that ended a 22-year north-south civil war.

Steinberg, accompanied by US envoy Scott Gration on a one-day visit to Sudan, dismissed suggestions that Washington might fail to comply with its promises to improve relations -- a view shared by many Sudanese.

Bureau Report

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