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SUDAN-PEACE (UPDATED) Jun-2-2011 (540 words) With photo posted June 1. xxxi

Sudanese church leaders urge end to deadlock over Abyei

By Catholic News Service

JUBA, Southern Sudan (CNS) -- Catholic and Anglican church leaders in Sudan urged the government to end the deadlock over the disputed area around Abyei and allow resettlement for the tens of thousands displaced by the recent violence.

"We demand that our governments make an immediate concerted effort to agree upon a cease-fire and withdrawal of northern troops from Abyei to allow deployment of a neutral security force, safe passage and speedy resettlement for all the displaced and to work toward a genuine and lasting peace agreement," said the statement sent to Catholic News Service June 1.

It was signed by Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro of Juba and Episcopal Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, primate of the Episcopal Church in Sudan.

Sudan seized Abyei May 21 after accusing troops from the South of attacking one of its convoys. U.N. officials said at least 60,000 people have been displaced by the ensuing violence, in which northern troops burned houses and attacked fleeing civilians.

The fighting comes just weeks before Southern Sudan's official independence date of July 9, after residents voted in January to secede from Sudan.

Abyei is near what would be the border of the two countries. A referendum on Abyei's political future also was scheduled for January but never took place because of disagreements over who was eligible to vote. The Sudanese government insisted that the nomadic Misseriya, a northern-aligned tribe that takes its cattle to Abyei during several months of the dry season, be allowed to participate, but that was rejected by the permanent residents of Abyei, mostly members of the Dinka Ngok tribe who support the Southern Sudan government.

"It is well known that there have been difficulties resolving the status of Abyei politically, but there is no excuse whatsoever for war to break out at the center of a civil population, no excuse for endangering the lives of innocent people, no excuse for mindless destruction of homes and livelihoods," the church leaders said in their statement.

They said the fighting indicated that the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended decades of civil war in Sudan was not being taken seriously.

Earlier, international faith-based, civil and political leaders concerned about Sudan met in Germany and called on all parties to end violence in disputed regions, including Abyei.

The leaders also called on Sudan to stop bombings and violence against civilians in Darfur, saying humanitarian corridors need to remain open there and in other areas of unrest.

In a communique issued in late May, the delegates said the next weeks would be instrumental in deciding whether there would be two nations on the way to peace after July 9.

"We call upon the government of Sudan and the government of South Sudan to immediately stop all hostilities," the conference delegates said in their statement.

"We call for a withdrawal of the Sudan armed forces from Abyei," and the Sudan People's Liberation Army "to refrain from entering the region and for immediate unhindered humanitarian access," the leaders said.

The conference delegates in Germany said they were alarmed by the fact that time was running out to resolve Sudan-Southern Sudan issues such as border resettlement and wealth-sharing. They also called for the depoliticization of armed forces in Sudan and the buildup of nonpartisan conventional forces.


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