UN wants Sudanese unity2010-02-02 13:09
Addis Ababa - The UN will work to support national unity in Sudan and try to avoid the southern part of the country breaking away, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Saturday.
A referendum on independence for southern Sudan is to be held in January 2011, and Ban said it was important for the UN and African Union (AU) to be prepared, whatever the result.
"Now whatever the outcome may be, the United Nations has a very important obligation, responsibility, together with the African Union that there needs to be a peace maintained," Ban said.
"We will try to work hard to make this unity attractive."
Ban said the coming 12 months would be crucial for Sudan, with elections planned for April - the troubled African country's first multi-party ballot since 1986.
"The United Nations position is that we will work toward the national unity, basically, but that depends upon how the people of south Sudan will decide through this referendum," the UN chief said.
"Then we will work very closely - we will have to work very closely - not to have any negative consequences coming from this potential or possible secession," he added.
Sudan's mainly Muslim north and largely Christian south ended 21 years of civil war in January 2005.
The Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA), as the deal is known, allowed the creation of a semi-autonomous government for the south and paved the way for April's presidential, parliamentary and regional elections, as well as next year's referendum.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said this week that Khartoum would recognise the independence of southern Sudan if it chose to secede in the referendum.
North and south are due to draw the 2 100 kilometre border between the two regions this year - a delicate issue because of the significant oil reserves in the area.
Ban said it was vital that the elections and the referendum were carried out in a credible, transparent way.
"There are many fundamentally important issues like border demarcation, sharing wealth, citizenship. All these fundamentally important issues should be resolved so that the referendum can be held and so that we can ensure that the situation will be peaceful," he said.
The secretary general said he was "deeply concerned" about continuing violence in southern Sudan, where violence in Jonglei state in recent weeks left at least 24 dead.
Clashes between rival ethnic groups in south Sudan erupt frequently - often sparked by disputes over livestock and natural resources - causing around 2 500 deaths in 2009.