Sudan dismisses warnings by activists of possible war

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* Sudan marks peace deal date ahead of divisive votes

* Star drummers urge peace in campaign film

By Andrew Heavens

KHARTOUM, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Sudan on Saturday dismissed warnings from aid groups and activists that it was sliding back to war, as it marked the fifth anniversary of a faltering peace deal with the south and prepared for two divisive votes.

Drummers from Radiohead, Pink Floyd and other bands appeared in a "beat for peace" film to mark Saturday's anniversary, part of global events urging world powers to help prevent more bloodshed in the oil-producing state.

Sudan ended more than two decades of north-south civil war with the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, but relations between the two sides have remained tense.

Aid groups and campaigners issued a series of reports in recent days warning there was a risk of fresh conflict as Sudan counted down the days to national elections in April and a referendum on whether the south should split off as an independent country, due in January 2011.

"The situation in southern Sudan is very far from what has been depicted...It is not all doom and gloom," Anne Itto, a senior member of the south's dominant Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) told reporters.

Itto, speaking in the southern capital Juba, said the campaigners had failed to take into account significant improvements and development in the five years since the accord.

Sudan's Foreign Ministry said in a statement a report "from some foreign organisations...that the north and the south are doomed to go back to war, was not correct and was not backed by facts on the ground".

There was a need to tighten security in the south, ministry spokesman Moawia Osman Khalid told the state Suna news agency.

But "war is no longer an option for the remedy of the situation between the north and the south, given the fact that the country has tasted the woes of the war and its repercussions," he added.

At least 139 people were killed in tribal clashes in the south's remote Warrap state last week, the latest in a surge of tribal violence, officials said on Friday.

Two million people were killed and 4 million fled their homes between 1983 and 2005 when Sudan's north and south fought over differences in ideology, ethnicity and religion. The fighting destabilised large parts of east Africa.

Saturday's "drum for peace" film, organised by Amnesty International and other pressure groups, featured Nick Mason from Pink Floyd performing a mass drum roll with percussionists from across the world.

"We are already seeing a grave increase in inter-ethnic violence in the south and violence continues in Darfur," said the Deputy Director of Amnesty's Africa Programme Tawanda Hondora in a statement.

"The coming year poses serious threats to human rights in Sudan that can be prevented if governments act now."

Oxfam and nine other aid groups warned on Thursday that "a lethal cocktail of rising violence, chronic poverty and political tensions has left the peace deal on the brink of collapse." (Additional reporting by Skye Wheeler in Juba)

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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