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Obama to deliver 'forceful message' at UN Sudan talks.

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama will deliver a "forceful" message that two referenda in Sudan must go ahead on time, at a United Nations meeting this week on votes which could split the country.

Samantha Power, a senior US national security aide, pledged Monday that the US president had decided to take part in what had been originally billed as a ministerial meeting to stress Sudan was approaching a "critical" moment.

"The President will deliver his own personal message to the parties in a series of remarks, and these will be quite substantial remarks on his vision for how to go forward there," Power said, previewing Friday's talks.

Obama will "send a very forceful message at a critical make or break time," said Power, director of multilateral relations at the National Security Council.

"This could not be a more critical time in the life of Sudan and also in the life of international efforts to ensure that these referenda go off on time and peacefully," Power told reporters.

There are expectations that referendums in January in south Sudan and in the Abyei will lead to the breakup of the country, and concern is growing in the international community that preparations for the votes are behind schedule.

The referendums are part of a US-backed 2005 peace accord which ended a 22-year-old civil war in which an estimated two million people died.

Many diplomats fear that a delay in the votes could lead to a unilateral declaration of independence by the south and a possible new conflict.

Power said that Obama's message could be especially effective as the president of southern Sudan Salva Kiir and Sudan's Vice President Ali Osman Taha are expected to attend the meeting.

It will be the first time that Obama has attempted such high-level engagement with leaders intimately connected with the tense situation in Sudan during his presidency.

"The number one message is that the referenda must go off on time, must be peaceful, and must reflect the will of people of South Sudan," said Power.

The Obama administration has been expressing increasing concern over Sudan in recent months, amid signs that preparations for the vote are being delayed by the government of President Omar al-Bashir.

The Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC)'s work was previously stalled as both southern and northern leaders demanded their candidate take the post, but last month the south relented to allow a northern candidate.

But work has still not been finished on completing the frontiers between the two sides and other major technical preparations. Even the wording of the referendum has not yet been revealed.

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Publication:Daily News Egypt (Egypt)
Date:Sep 21, 2010
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