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Agreement Reached on Sudan's Abyei Region

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The two sides in the dispute over Sudan's Abyei region have signed an agreement after several days of negotiations in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

Their accord calls for the oil-rich region to be demilitarized and for Ethiopian peacekeepers to be deployed there.

The north and south negotiators also agreed to establish a council to oversee security in Abyei. The council will be comprised of two members of the north, two members from the south and a representative from the African Union.

Negotiators, led by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, hit a deadlock on Sunday over the question of how the border region will be policed after the secession of southern Sudan on July 9.

After the accord was reached, Mbeki briefed the U.N. Security Council by video conference. The Security Council is to issue a mandate that would allow the Ethiopian peacekeeping force to enter Abyei.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, hailed the agreement and urged the immediate deployment of the Ethiopian peace-keeping force.

Mbeki suggested the agreement on Abyei might clear the way for a breakthrough in separate negotiations aimed at halting the fighting in the Sudanese border state of Southern Kordofan. Those talks are scheduled to resume on Tuesday.

It was earlier reported that both sides had hardened their positions despite an optimistic assessment from Mbeki.

The disputes on Abyei and Southern Kordofan have forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of Sudanese civilians and have led to fears of a return to civil war.

North and south Sudan fought a decades-long civil war that ended in 2005 with an agreement providing for the south to hold a referendum on self-determination. Southern voters voted overwhelmingly in January to secede from the north.

Article by VOA News