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Egypt urges Sudan unity ahead of referendum

by Staff Writers
Khartoum (AFP) May 9, 2010
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit pressed for the unity of Sudan on Sunday, ahead of a referendum on independence which could call into question current Nile Basin water-sharing agreements.

"Egypt is in favour of the unity of Sudan as a part of Africa and a member of the African Union. We will do everything in our power to save the unity of Sudan," Abul Gheit told reporters in Khartoum after talks with President Omar al-Beshir.

Abul Gheit and Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman are also due in the south Sudan capital Juba later on Sunday where they will meet Salva Kiir, the head of the semi-autonomous region.

If the southern Sudanese vote for independence in next January's referendum, this could have an impact on the disputed sharing of Nile waters.

A 1959 accord between Cairo and Khartoum reserves 55.5 billion cubic metres a year for Egypt and 18.5 billion cubic metres for Sudan, a combined total of 87 percent of the river's water, leaving just 13 percent for other Nile Basin states.

Some of these, which include Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo, say past treaties are unfair and they want an equitable water-sharing agreement that would allow for more irrigation and power projects.

"While Egyptian officials try to downplay the water concerns, some worry an independent South would soon join the groundswell of states objecting to the standing agreements," said a report by the International Crisis Group released on Thursday.

Last month, Egypt rejected any new plans for Nile water allocation, stressing that its share in the river was a "historic right" with Sudan considered a strong ally.

"Sudan and Egypt agree completely on the question of Nile waters. We are ready to continue discussions with other countries and to cooperate to build a bridge and reach a final agreement that will satisfy all the Nile Basin Initiative countries," Abul Gheit said.

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