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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2007, 23:56 GMT
Inquiry into 'lost' Sudan funds
By Jonah Fisher
BBC News, Khartoum

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir
President Bashir said the money had been paid to the south
The government of southern Sudan has launched an inquiry into what happened to $60m (30.5m) it received in 2005.

A panel has been set up to trace the money President Omar al-Bashir said was given to former southern rebel group, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement.

The money was intended to accelerate the implementation of a peace deal between the government and the rebels.

Southern Sudan's information minister said the committee would make sure there had been no corruption.

The fate of the $60m first arose earlier this month, when Sudan's southern vice-president, Salva Kiir, gave a speech criticising the north for the slow progress of the country's peace agreement.

Next to speak was Sudan's northern President, Omar al-Bashir, and he laid into the former southern rebels, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), saying they had been given $60m in early 2005 to try and accelerate the process.

The public row took place during a ceremony to mark the second anniversary of a peace deal that ended 21 years of war between the Muslim north and Christian south, in which an estimated 1.5 million people died.

Simple transactions

That money appears to have been news to some members of the SPLM. During the first six months of 2005, the SPLM was dominated by John Garang and his allies.

With Mr Garang's death in a helicopter crash, a new leader, Salva Kiir, was chosen but he has little knowledge of what had gone on before.

The committee that has been established in southern Sudan will now try and trace the money.

Samson Kwaje, the southern information minister, said it would make sure there had been no corruption and that the money had not been misused.

After decades of war, southern Sudan has few financial institutions. Simple transactions such as paying teachers and civil servants have only recently become possible.

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