Sudan: New date to be set for Abyei referendum

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Sudan has postponed the referendum date scheduled for the oil-rich Abyei region. The vote on whether the oil-rich region will belong to the north or the south should the country splits will not take place as planned on January 9.

According to reports, North-South talks on Abyei broke down in Ethiopia last month, and US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters on Tuesday it would now be impossible to hold the vote, now just a month away.

“We continue to press the parties with respect to the situation in Abyei. I think we have a recognition that that referendum will not go forward on January 9th, but we continue to encourage the parties to work on a solution to Abyei,” Crowley told reporters.

The Abyei referendum commission has yet to be appointed and north and south Sudan remain at odds on voter eligibility.

The African Union, the United States, Britain and Norway have all raised concern over the important oil-rich Abyei region.

“This is arguably the most compelling story that the world will face in the first half of 2011, and we understand the risk. If this goes well, it has the ability to… have a very positive effect in the region… if it goes badly we understand that there is a significant risk of a return to civil war,” Crowley said.

Crowley recapped that the United States will continue its efforts to encourage both the south and north to follow through on the referendums and other terms of the 2005 peace agreement that ended the 20-years civil war between both regions.

A new date for the referendum on whether the oil-rich Abyei region will belong to the north or the south has not been released, but experts believe it will not be January 9th as previously scheduled.

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