Bashir to Attend South Sudan Independence Celebrations

Posted July 4th, 2011 at 5:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir plans to attend the independence ceremony for south Sudan Saturday, despite ongoing tension and fighting between the two Sudans.

The official SUNA news agency reports southern President Salva Kiir invited Mr. Bashir to the celebration during a meeting in Ethiopia. The report said Mr. Bashir is ready to attend.

South Sudan's government says Mr. Bashir will speak at the main independence ceremony in the southern capital, Juba, along with Mr. Kiir and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

South Sudan becomes an independent nation Saturday, six months after its people voted to split from the north in a referendum.

Mr. Bashir supported the referendum, but the sides have been unable to resolve disputes over borders and oil revenue.

The two presidents agreed at a summit in Addis Ababa Monday to continue talks on resolving those matters after independence. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the east African bloc which sponsored the summit, says it “strongly commends” Mr. Bashir and Mr. Kiir.

But many Western diplomats have urged the two leaders to settle all outstanding issues before Saturday's independence day, fearing another north-south civil war.

Northern and southern forces have clashed in recent weeks in the contested Abyei region and in the border state of Southern Kordofan. The United Nations says the fighting has displaced tens of thousands of people.

North and south Sudan fought a 21-year civil war that ended with a 2005 peace deal.