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Page last updated at 10:50 GMT, Tuesday, 30 March 2010 11:50 UK

Sudan - SPLM rigging concern over ballot paper printing

Two Sudanese men past signs encouraging people to cast their votes in Sudanís elections
The election will be the first since the end of a two decade civil war in 2005

The main party in south Sudan has expressed concern that ballot papers for April's vote are being printed on government printing presses.

Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) leader Anne Ito said it gave the ruling northern National Congress Party (NCP) a chance to rig the poll.

But she said her party did not want a delay if a free vote could be guaranteed by the election commission.

Other parties wanted the first national vote in 24 years to be postponed.

President Omar al-Bashir and the leader of Southern Sudan Salva Kiir were due to meet later on Tuesday to discuss the crisis, but it is not clear if that meeting will go ahead.

Last week, Mr Bashir threatened to kick out foreign election monitors, after they suggested the elections should be delayed.

Democracy test

"We don't know whether all the ballot papers that have been printed will be handed over to the National Election Commission (NEC)," said Ms Ito, the SPLM deputy secretary general in the south.

Darfur map

"It's an opportunity for NCP to rig.

"If the NEC can prove to us that nothing would happen, despite the fact that these ballot papers printed in Khartoum then this is the time to allow the elections to go ahead," she said.

Correspondents say this year's polls are being viewed as a test of the country's ability to function as a democracy.

The general election will be the first since the end of a two decade north-south civil war in 2005.

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

Violence between rival ethnic group continues to claim hundreds of lives each year in the south, making it difficult to ensure security during the election.

In Darfur, hundreds of thousands of people still live in refugee camps after a separate conflict.



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