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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 January, 2004, 09:35 GMT
Sudan foes agree to share wealth
SPLA leader John Garang (L) and Vice President Ali Osman Taha
Garang and Taha have been holding talks in Kenya for months
The Sudanese Government and southern rebels have finalised an agreement on how to share the country's wealth.

The deal, regarded as a major step towards a final peace deal, was announced during talks in Kenya aimed at ending Sudan's 20-year civil war.

In December, the government and the SPLA rebels agreed to divide on a 50-50 basis oil resources in the south.

Under the new overall agreement, due to be signed on Wednesday, non-oil revenue is to be shared equally as well.

Talks on outstanding issues - including power-sharing and the status of three contested areas - are continuing.

But BBC East Africa correspondent Christian Fraser says this latest breakthrough on the most crucial part of the negotiations should ensure a final agreement is signed within weeks.

Sudan's civil war has killed at least two million people, pitting the Muslim northerners who control Khartoum against the mainly Christian and animist south.

Sharia banking

The current round of talks in Kenya is being led by Vice-President Osman Ali Taha for the government and John Garang, who heads the rebel Sudan Peoples' Liberation Army (SPLA).

The deal means non-oil revenues - such as taxes - will be divided equally between the north and the south and gives the SPLA the finances and the institutions to run their own affairs during a planned six-year interim period.

There will be a central bank with two branches - one in the south that will operate along conventional lines, and one in the north that will operate Islamic Sharia banking that outlaws the charging of interest.

The south will use the new Sudan pound and the north the dinar until the two sides introduce a new common currency later this year.

Oil

There will also be a presidential commission which will oversee the management of oil contracts.

Oil accounts for more than 43% of government revenue and produces some 250,000 barrels per day.

But most of Sudan's oil is drawn from fields in the south.

The commission will be comprised of four members from the SPLA side, four from the central government side and three additional members from the oil-producing areas.

The commission will oversee future exploration and ensure revenues are distributed fairly.

In the final phase of the talks, negotiators are focusing on power-sharing and the future of three regions - Abyei, the Nuba Mountains and the Southern Blue Nile - which are claimed by both the government and the rebels.

The SPLA says it is confident a final all-encompassing deal will be signed within the month.

The conflict has devastated the country and left an estimated four million people displaced.




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