US, Norway, Britain call for return to Sudan talks

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The United States, Norway and Britain on Tuesday called for the resumption of talks between Khartoum and southern Sudan ahead of the south's planned independence later this year.

The southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) called off the talks on Saturday, accusing the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in Khartoum of plotting the ouster of its breakaway government.

The Sudan Troika, made up of the United States, Norway and Britain, expressed "serious concern" about the breakdown of the talks.

"In this sensitive period, it is critical that the NCP and SPLM maintain their dialogue and make further progress toward the creation of sustainable economic, political, and security arrangements," it said in a statement.

It urged both sides to "take steps against alleged actions that destabilize each other's governments and territories, and to lay the ground for mutual cooperation with the goal of the creation of two viable states in July."

The Troika also expressed concern about recent deadly violence in the disputed border district of Abyei, calling on both sides to "take immediate measures to restrain armed groups under their influence."

The mostly Christian and animist south held a peaceful referendum in January in which it overwhelmingly voted in favor of independence from the Arab Muslim north, with which it fought a devastating two-decade-long civil war.

But a simultaneous plebiscite on whether Abyei should join the north or south was postponed indefinitely, with the two sides at loggerheads over who should be eligible to vote.

At least 70 people were killed and three villages razed in clashes there this month between fighters from the Arab Misseriya tribe, which supports the Khartoum government, and the Ngok Dinka people, who back the south.

Dozens were also killed on Saturday in heavy clashes between south Sudanese troops and a rebel militia accused of links to Khartoum in the southern border town of Malakal, in oil-rich Upper Nile state.

The Troika statement, signed by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere and British Foreign Secretary William Hague, condemned the violence there.

"Allegations of support to proxies are serious, and should be investigated," it said.

© 2011 AFP

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