Page last updated at 11:34 GMT, Thursday, 28 January 2010

Bashir party 'backs former Sudan civil-war enemy'

President Bashir and the south's President Kiir
Omar al-Bashir and Salva Kiir have had a strained relationship of late

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir's party has said it will back the leader of its former civil-war enemies in the south's presidential election in April.

The National Congress Party (NCP) said it would not field a candidate against ex-rebel leader Salva Kiir and wanted good relations with his SPLM party.

But one southern official told the BBC he did not believe the NCP and accused them of backing the SPLM's rivals.

The two sides signed a deal in 2005 to end two decades of north-south war.

There have been tensions in recent months about the possibility of the oil-rich south voting to secede from the north in a referendum in a year's time.

The BBC's Peter Martell in the southern capital, Juba, says there has been a grudging acceptance in the north of the likelihood of a split.

And in a major about-turn last week, Mr Bashir said he would accept the result of the referendum next year - even if the south opted for independence.

Destabilising the south?

The NCP said it would not field its own candidate for the post of president of Southern Sudan.

Sudan map

"We hope the SPLM will do the same by withdrawing their candidate for the president of the republic," NCP presidential adviser Ali Tamim Fartak told Reuters news agency.

Mr Kiir is not standing as the SPLM's rival to Mr Bashir in the national election, but the party has fielded Yassir Arman as a candidate

But the SPLM's envoy to the US, Ezekiel Lol Gatkout, said the SPLM would not withdraw Mr Arman.

"If they are interested in sponsoring us why are are they interested in sponsoring armed groups that are destabilising the south," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

He said the NCP was backing Lam Akol, who left the SPLM last year to set up his own party.

"The SPLM-Democratic Change was created by the NCP to challenge the SPLM," he said.

Last year, some 2,000 people died in clashes in the reigon and southern politicians have often blamed the northern NCP.

They say the NCP wants to destabilise the region so the election and independence referendum have to be delayed indefinitely.

But northern politicians have strenuously denied the allegations.

The election in April will be the first multi-party national election in a generation.

The 22-year war between the mainly Muslim north and the Christian and animist south claimed the lives of some 1.5 million people.

Graphs of development in Sudan
Southern Sudan All Sudan
Population: 7.5m to 9.7m Population: 42.2m
Area: 640,000 sq km Area: 2.5m sq km
Maternal mortality: 1,700 deaths per 100,000 births Maternal mortality: 1,107 deaths per 100,000 births
Access to clean water: 50% Access to clean water: 70%
Life expectancy: 42 years Life expectancy: 58.92 years
Sources: CIA, UN, UNFPA

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Reuters Bashir to back ex-rebel for south Sudan president - 34 hrs ago
IOL Bashir backs former rebel - 36 hrs ago

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