Sudan's Bashir pledges support for independent south
By Khaled Abdelaziz
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Tuesday pledged support for a new southern state in his first public address since the south of the country voted overwhelmingly to split from the north.
Early results from this month's referendum indicate almost 99 percent of southerners voted to secede after decades of civil war which claimed 2 million lives and destabilised much of east Africa. Bashir had campaigned for unity and many feared the north would not let the oil-producing south go without a fight.
"Secession has become a reality -- 99 percent of southerners chose separation but we will not be sad ... we will go to the south and celebrate with them," Bashir told supporters during a visit to the northern River Nile state.
"We will support the new southern state and will hold onto its stability because we are neighbours and will remain friends," he added.
While oil was a factor behind the north-south war which ended with a wealth and power-sharing agreement in 2005, most believe it will enshrine peace after the split.
Around 75 percent of Sudan's 500,000 barrels per day of crude lies in the south while the export infrastructure is in the north -- a forced economic interdependency.
Provisional results on the referendum commission's web site show almost 99 percent of voters opted for separation. Continued...