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Sudan Demands End to U.S. Sanctions After Referendum

by Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA - Sudan called on Monday on the United States to lift sanctions, a day after provisional results showed south Sudan voted almost unanimously to secede in a referendum.

The United States had declared the peaceful conduct of South Sudan's January independence referendum a top priority and offered the Khartoum government a 'roadmap' to full ties if it allowed the vote to proceed and made progress on Darfur.

While Washington has praised Sudan for the January vote, officials have said they are still concerned about the situation in Darfur, where violence continues to crackle.

"We have delivered what we promised. We now want all sanctions to be lifted," Foreign Minister Ali Karti told Reuters on the sidelines of an African Union summit in Ethiopia.

"Darfur should not be attached on this. We are providing our full cooperation with them to solve the issue," he said.

Karti hoped the peaceful conduct of the vote would provide an opening for economic opportunities for his isolated country, which has long faced embargoes.

"We want more investment in our country. We want to strengthen our trade, and enhance cooperation on all aspects," he told Reuters.

The United States has so far taken some small initial steps to lift export controls on agricultural machinery to help Sudan's struggling food sector, but has stressed that further progress is contingent on Khartoum's continued cooperation.

The United Nations estimates 300,000 people died in a humanitarian crisis following a government counter-insurgency campaign in Darfur in 2003 that Washington branded as genocide. Khartoum puts the figure at 10,000.

The referendum earlier this month was promised in a 2005 peace deal which ended decades of north-south conflict, Africa's longest civil war, which cost an estimated 2 million lives.

According to the terms of the accord, south Sudan will be able to declare independence on July 9, pending any legal challenges to the results.

UNRESOLVED ISSUES

Northern and southern leaders have still not reached a deal on their shared border, how they will split oil revenues after secession and the ownership of the disputed Abyei region.

Asked by Reuters on Sunday whether he supported an easing of sanctions due to the peaceful conduct of the referendum, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon chose to focus on unresolved issues in the country.

"What is important at this time is that the parties should engage immediately to address all the post-referendum issues, the demarcation of borders, citizenship, security matters, sharing of resources, and more importantly the status of Abyei," he said.

At the same time we are very much concerned by the security situation in Darfur," Ban said.

At a mini-summit attended by senior officials from the U.N., EU, African Union, Somalia and Sudan on Sunday, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and southern leader Salva Kiir pledged to solve the issue over the disputed Abyei region by the end of March, a senior official from the grouping told Reuters.

Lingering disputes over the eligibility and status of Abyei's two main tribes has forced authorities to postpone the referendum in the disputed region, which remains one of the most serious potential flashpoints between North and South Sudan since their 2005 peace deal.

"Presidents Bashir and Kiir have agreed in the presence of (mediator) Thabo Mbeki to try to solve the issue of Abyei by the end of March," he said.

(Editing by David Clarke)

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