Sudan`s al-Bashir says he will accept southern secession
Sudan`s President Omar al-Bashir during a visit to Southern Sudan Tuesday said he would accept the result of a forthcoming crucial referendum on independence for the autonomous region, dpa reported.
"We are of the opinion that enforcing unity by force has failed," al-Bashir told journalists in Southern Sudan's capital Juba, where he met the southern president Salva Kiir.
Al-Bashir, who was treated to the sight of Juba residents lining the route of his motorcade waving banners in support of secession, said that the north would nonetheless continue to campaign for Sudan to remain whole.
"We maintain that unity is the best way to ensure progress, stability and the welfare of all the people of Sudan," he said.
Al-Bashir would also meet other high-ranking members of the southern government and members of civil society in Juba ahead of the vote, which was enshrined in the 2005 peace deal that ended the war between the mainly Muslim north and the Christian and animist south.
Almost 4 million Southern Sudanese have registered to take part in the referendum, which now looks set to begin as scheduled on Sunday despite fears of a delay.
The south is widely expected to vote to break away from the north and form Africa`s newest country - although concerns have been raised of a return to the decades-long north-south war.
The north and south still have to agree on issues like citizenship, oil-revenue sharing, the future of the oil-producing region Abyei, and how to split up Sudan`s 38 billion dollars in debt.
Sudan`s long civil war left around 2 million people dead, and campaigners are concerned the unresolved issues around the vote could help spark more violence.
Actor and Sudan activist George Clooney last week announced the launch of a satellite surveillance project in partner with Google, which is aimed at monitoring Sudan during the referendum and warding off possible genocide.
"We want to let potential perpetrators of genocide and other war crimes know that we`re watching, the world is watching," he said.
Al-Bashir - who is wanted by the International Criminal Court to face charges of war crimes and genocide carried out in Sudan`s restive western Darfur province - said the north was committed to peace, no matter the outcome of the referendum.