December 13, 2009 / 10:10 AM / 10 years ago

Sudan leaders reach deal on disputed reforms

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - The two main political parties in Sudan’s north and south reached agreement on Sunday on democratic reforms, defusing a row that threatened to undermine a peace accord.

The south’s dominant Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) joined a coalition government with President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s northern National Congress Party (NCP) as part of a 2005 accord to end more than two decades of war.

Relations between the former foes have been strained, most recently last week when Khartoum authorities arrested two senior SPLM officials and scores of their supporters during a protest.

Analysts have warned of a risk of a return to conflict if the parties could not agree terms for laws supposed to pave the way to elections, due in April, and a referendum on southern independence in 2011. Both were promised under the peace deal.

“We have reached agreement on three very important laws which have been grounds for serious disagreements between the two parties,” SPLM secretary general Pagan Amum told reporters.

He was speaking after a meeting between President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who heads the NCP, and south Sudan’s president and SPLM leader Salva Kiir.

Amum said the laws covered the national referendum, a consultation exercise for people living in boundary areas between north and south Sudan and a referendum on whether the oil-producing region of Abyei should join the south.

NCP official Nafie Ali Nafie also confirmed a deal on those issues had been reached during the meeting.

Amum said the two sides also agreed to form a committee to discuss remaining issues, including differences over a security bill which the SPLM has argued gave too many powers to security services.

Both sides have met repeatedly over the past year to try to break a deadlock on the bills. The parties have announced breakthroughs before that failed to end long term wrangling over the details of the peace accord.

Writing by Edmund Blair in Cairo; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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