WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama has written to regional leaders to rally support for a peaceful and timely referendum on the independence of south Sudan, the White House said Sunday.
Southerners are set to vote in a referendum on January 9 on whether to remain united with the north or break away and form their own country. Sudan's neighbors can exact pressure on Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
The vote is a key plank of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south that put an end to more than two decades of civil war.
Obama has made Sudan a foreign policy priority and pushed Khartoum on both the referendum and the ongoing crisis in Darfur amid growing violence in the south.
"We believe that an on-time referendum is the best means of preventing the resumption of a full-scale war between northern and southern Sudan," White House National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said.
"Over the past four months, the administration has redoubled our efforts to support referendum preparations and peace negotiations between the two parties."
He said Obama wrote to a number of African leaders as part of an "ongoing aggressive diplomatic effort with the parties in Sudan and with its neighbors reflecting our intense interest in having a successful referendum."
The letter was sent to leaders in Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and the African Union, a US official said.
Analysts are predicting that the southerners will opt for independence, and senior officials in Khartoum are even beginning to accept the idea of the split.
Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Libya's Moamer Kadhafi are due to visit Khartoum on Tuesday for talks with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, the official SUNA news agency reported on Sunday.
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