North, south Sudan trade accusations of troop build-up

Mon Sep 27, 2010 5:46pm GMT

By Andrew Heavens

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Northern and southern Sudanese officials traded accusations on Monday of deploying troops along their joint border as tensions mounted in the build-up to a referendum on southern independence.

South Sudan's army accused the north of building up around 70,000 troops in contested areas and plotting an invasion of the oil-producing south.

Earlier a northern government minister told journalists the south's army had strayed into disputed territory, saying his dominant National Congress Party (NCP) might reject the result of the referendum unless the soldiers moved.

Both sides dismissed each other's accusations.

Sudan's Muslim north and the south, where most follow traditional and Christian beliefs, ended decades of civil war with a 2005 peace deal that allowed them to keep their own armies.

Analysts say trust between the two former foes has hit an all-time low in the countdown to the referendum, due on January 9, that will allow southerners to choose whether to secede or stay in Sudan, a vote set up as the climax of the peace process.

The latest accusations come days after northern and southern leaders met U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders during the U.N. General Assembly and promised to hold the potentially explosive vote peacefully and on time.

Haj Majid Suwar, Sudan's youth and sports minister, accused the south's army of straying out of areas assigned to them in the peace accord, and said southern authorities were cracking down on supporters of Sudanese unity.   Continued...

<p>Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir waves to supporters during an election rally, April 09, 2010. REUTERS/Mohamed Nurdldin</p>
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