Egypt fears refugee exodus if south Sudan opts to break away
CAIRO — Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit expressed fear on Wednesday that a referendum on independence for south Sudan scheduled for January could spark violence and an exodus of refugees.
"We fear separation may be accompanied by some violent actions that affect Sudan's relations with neighbouring countries and Egypt, which circumstances may oblige to host Sudanese" fleeing unrest, the official MENA news agency quoted him as saying.
"This is matter of concern that requires adequate preparations," he said.
The referendum due in January is a central plank of a 2005 peace agreement that ended a 22-year war between the Muslim north and mostly Christian south of Sudan but northern and southern leaders have yet to agree on all of the modalities for the vote.
Preparations are behind schedule and the head of the organising committee said this week that it would take "a miracle" for the vote to be held on time.
"It is not a problem if the referendum is delayed for several months," MENA quoted the Egyptian minister as saying.
"Sudanese should take into account the priority of the importance of life over the importance of holding the referendum on time," he said.