Sudan's Bashir sees Islamic law, defends flogging

Sun Dec 19, 2010 2:03pm GMT

By Khaled Abdel Aziz

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan's president said the country would adopt an Islamic constitution if the south split away in a referendum due next month, in a speech on Sunday in which he also defended police filmed flogging a woman.

"If south Sudan secedes, we will change the constitution and at that time there will be no time to speak of diversity of culture and ethnicity," President Omar Hassan al-Bashir told supporters at a rally in the eastern city of Gedaref.

"Sharia (Islamic law) and Islam will be the main source for the constitution, Islam the official religion and Arabic the official language," he said.

An official from south Sudan's main party criticised Bashir's stance, saying it would encourage discrimination against minorities in the mainly Muslim north and deepen the country's international isolation.

South Sudan, where most follow traditional beliefs and Christianity, is three weeks away from the scheduled start of the referendum on whether to declare independence.

The vote was promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended a north-south civil war and set up an interim constitution which limited sharia to the north and recognised "the cultural and social diversity of the Sudanese people".

Analysts expect most southerners to choose independence in the poll, due to start on January 9 and last for a week.

Yasir Arman, from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), said Bashir's statements would encourage repression in the north. "This type of discourse is preparing the ground for a police state. The north, whether alone or with the south, is an extremely diverse place."   Continued...

<p>Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir talks during a meeting with the African Union High Level Panel in Khartoum October 25, 2010. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah (SUDAN - Tags: POLITICS)</p>
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