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The troubled African nation of Sudan enters the New Year facing critical choices to fulfill the promise of the 2005 peace agreement that ended two decades of civil war there. Time is growing short before national elections in April, and the parties in Sudan must show the political will and vision needed to move their country toward a lasting peace.
Under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, a coalition government was formed between the northern National Congress Party and the former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement. Relations between the 2 have been troubled, however, and it was only last month that Sudan's parliament approved the legislation required to plan for and conduct the referendum next January in which citizens of Southern Sudan will vote to confirm national unity or split off as a separate nation. But before that, national elections will be held in April, the first in more than two decades.
A long list of issues must be resolved in the months ahead, including security arrangements, sharing the nation's oil wealth and settling borders.
"The parties of Sudan cannot afford to delay and there can be no backtracking on agreements already reached," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The United States has pledged its active commitment to support these efforts, and its special envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration, will return to the region at the end of January.