Ex-rebels warn of widespread Sudan conflict over Kordofan

Khartoum – The northern branch of the ex-rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement warned Sunday that the South Kordofan conflict could spread all across the country's new southern border unless Khartoum agreed to a ceasefire.

"There are some voices in Khartoum that are against this framework agreement (signed on Tuesday). Those voices are playing with fire," the SPLM north's secretary general Yasser Arman told AFP.

"The only alternative to this agreement is a war from the Blue Nile to Darfur. We don't want that," he added.

"The north needs to be at peace, it needs to reach an agreement on Darfur. The north does not need to create a new south," Arman said.

He was speaking after a press conference in the Sudanese capital, just hours before flying to Addis Ababa with Malik Agar, the party's chairman, to try to resolve the South Kordofan crisis.

Africa's largest country is set to split in two on Saturday, when south Sudan will gain formal independence from the north, with whom it fought a devastating, decades-long civil war in which some two million people died.

The ongoing fighting in the ethnically-divided northern state of South Kordofan, between the army and militia who fought with the southern ex-rebel movement during the war, threatens to poison relations ahead of the "divorce."

On Tuesday, Agar signed a preliminary accord with top presidential aide Nafie Ali Nafie that boosted hopes of a comprehensive political and security settlement for Blue Nile and South Kordofan, both home to a large number of SPLM supporters.

But President Omar al-Bashir dealt a blow to those hopes when he announced on Friday, shortly after his return from an official visit to China, that he had ordered the army to cleanse South Kordofan of rebels.

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