Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismael reaffirmed Saturday the government's opposition to any eventual secession by the southern part of the country and its determination to retain a unified federal system.
"The government strongly opposes the secession of the southern part of the country and is determined to keep Sudan a united state based on a federal system and a just distribution of wealth and power," Ismael told reporters.
Pointing out that Sudan is a country of diverse ethnic and religious groups, Ismael said "an act of seceding ... will lead to dividing the Sudan into mini-states."
He added that secession would not lead to an end of the war that has been underway between rebels in the south and the government since 1983.
At the same time, he said secession would be "unacceptable" to neighboring countries and to the Organization of African Unity.
While speaking for unity, Ismael underlined that this should not be imposed by force and that his government would seek to achieve it "by consensus of all parties."
In that context, he noted what he said was the willingness of groups in the south contacted by the government to participate in bids for peace and national reconciliation.
He did not identify those groups, but said they are convinced that the struggle of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), led by John Garang, "is based on personal ambitions not related to the demands of the other southern groups."
He also warned the SPLA against further escalating military operations in the Bahr el-Ghazal region of southern Sudan, saying the government "will reciprocate in kind, and the rebel movement will be responsible for the consequences."
Moreover, continuing military operations will hamper relief operations in the region, he said.
In that context, he said the government and the United Nations had agreed to meet on August 24th to review the operations of the UN-sponsored Operation Lifeline-Sudan. He said the government insists on supervising the OLS program of delivering humanitarian assistance in the south - KHARTOUM (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )