British firm to print Sudan referendum ballots

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A British company will print ballot papers for the Sudanese referendum on January 9 that could lead to the partition of Africa's largest nation, officials said on Monday.

"The UK company Tall Security Print got the contract," a UN official who requested anonymity told AFP, without being able to give the value of the contract.

Officials said the company won the tender after the 12 bids received by Sunday were whittled down to three -- the British company, one from Denmark and another from South Africa.

"Twelve companies... applied including two Sudanese companies, one governmental and the other private," said commission spokesman George Makuer Benjamin.

"Three companies had been shortlisted, one from South Africa, one from the UK and one from Denmark."

The former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), which governs the autonomous south, was opposed to having the ballot papers printed in the country.

"We prefer that this material is produced outside Sudan" to prevent anyone from tampering with them, Anne Itto, the SPLM's deputy secretary general in the south, said ahead of the decision.

The authorities plan to give the go-ahead for the ballot-printing to start once voter numbers are confirmed at the end of the registration period on Wednesday.

The tender for the ballot-printing had to be extended by three weeks until Sunday to allow Sudanese companies to enter the process, raising fears that the referendum would have to be postponed.

But the referendum commission said on Saturday that the referendum, a key plank of a 2005 peace deal that ended a two-decade war which cost two million lives, would go ahead on schedule next month despite the extension.

© 2010 AFP

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