Obama expresses concerns over Abyei

April 2, 2011 12:00 am

, WASHINGTON, Apr 2 – US President Barack Obama on Friday expressed "serious concerns" over the situation in the Sudanese region of Abyei and violence against civilians in Darfur, as he met his new Sudan envoy.

Obama dispatched envoy Princeton Lyman on two trips, one beginning this weekend, as part of his administration\’s policy to ensure the implementation of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan and to seek peace in Darfur.

"The president outlined his serious concerns over the situation in Abyei and the impact that increased bombings are having on civilians in Darfur," the White House said in a statement after the Oval Office meeting.

The United Nations warned in Sudan this week that forces from both north and south Sudan were provoking fears of new violence with a military build-up in Abyei.

The flashpoint area, where clashes killed at least 70 people earlier this month, was due to hold a referendum in January on whether to join north or south Sudan, to coincide with the plebiscite on southern independence.

Southerners opted overwhelmingly for succession, but the Abyei vote was postponed indefinitely, with the ruling parties in Khartoum and Juba at loggerheads over whether Misseriya nomads should be eligible to participate.

The heavily-armed, Arab cattle-herding tribe were a key proxy militia of Khartoum\’s army during the 1983-2005 civil war against southern rebels and now fear their route could be blocked by a new international border.

Sudan\’s President Omar al-Bashir has insisted that the Misseriya must be allowed to take part in the vote.

Obama also underscored his commitment in the meeting with Lyman to working to establish two viable states in northern and southern Sudan in July, the White House said.

And the president raised concerns about the "impact that increased bombings are having on civilians in Darfur," the statement said.

The UN reported fresh air strikes in the troubled Darfur region this week injured 13 people. But the Sudanese armed forces which have the region\’s only air force denied all knowledge of any attacks.

At least 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur and 1.8 million people forced to flee their homes since non-Arab rebels first rose up against the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime in 2003, the United Nations says.

Lyman was named special envoy to Sudan on Thursday and will take over from the previous envoy Scott Gration, who has been picked by Obama as the next US ambassador to Kenya, to where the president traces part of his ancestry.

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