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Sudan Referendum Body Hasn’t Sought Delay, Deputy Head Says

The commission organizing Southern Sudan’s referendum on independence plans for the vote to take place on schedule next month and hasn’t sought a postponement, the deputy head of the body said.

Chan Reec Madut, the deputy chairman of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, was responding to reports that the head of the commission, Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil, planned to send a letter to President Umar al-Bashir and to the president of the semi-autonomous south, Salva Kiir, requesting a delay.

“We are still working toward a Jan. 9 start date for the referendum,” Madut said in an interview in Juba, the regional capital. “To the best of my knowledge, there was no letter sent by the commission asking for a delay.”

Southern Sudanese officials have rejected any delays in the referendum, which 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.

“There has been no convincing reason given for a delay,” Southern Sudanese Minister of Information Barnaba Marial Benjamin said today by phone. “The official position here and in Khartoum is that the vote is still on time.”

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

Also scheduled for Jan. 9 is a vote on whether the disputed border region of Abyei will join the north or south. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which governs the south, and al-Bashir’s National Congress Party in Khartoum have failed to agree over who has the right to vote on Abyei.

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