North, South Sudan Leaders Agree to Protect Oil Fields During Referendum

The authorities in northern and southern Sudan agreed to protect the nation’s oil fields and workers during the south’s independence referendum next month, the minister of internal affairs in the southern government said.

Riek Machar, the vice president of Southern Sudan, and Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha, made the agreement yesterday when they met in the southern town of Paloich, minister Gier Chaung Aluong said today in a telephone interview from Juba, Southern Sudan’s capital.

“The two sides agreed that oil will continue to flow before, during and after the referendum,” he said.

Oil fields in Southern Sudan account for as much as 80 percent of Sudan’s 490,000 barrels of daily production. Sudan is sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest producer, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

Most of the oil in the south is near the border with the north, in Unity and Upper Nile states.

The referendum, due to be held on Jan. 9, is the climax of a 2005 peace accord that ended a two-decade civil war between the nation’s Muslim north and the oil-producing south, where Christianity and traditional beliefs dominate.

Under the agreement reached yesterday, a committee of officials from the north and south will be in charge of protecting the oil fields, Aluong said.

Combined security forces set up under the peace deal, known as Joint Integrated Units, will guard territory around the wells, while soldiers from Southern Sudan’s army will patrol the areas closest to the production facilities, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matt Richmond in Juba via Johannesburg at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net.

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