, KHARTOUM, Dec 13 – Sudan\’s north-south leaders on Sunday said they have reached a deal on disputed democratic reforms ahead of next year\’s elections and a southern referendum on independence.
"We announce an agreement between the two partners on all points, which had been a source of disagreement on the referendum law in south Sudan," said Nafie Ali Nafie, deputy head of Khartoum\’s ruling National Congress Party.
He was speaking at a joint news conference with the secretary general of the former rebel Sudan People\’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), Pagan Amum, who said: "With this agreement, we announce the end of the crisis between the two partners."
The details of the agreement will be announced after consultation with all political forces in the country, Amum said, adding that MPs who had boycotted parliament for the past 45 days will start attending sessions "within 24 hours."
The announcement came after a series of meetings since Thursday between Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir and South Sudan leader Salva Kiir.
The agreement aims to defuse tensions between the two parties which had threatened a 2005 peace deal signed between north and south Sudan to end a bitter decades-long civil war.
Reform and changes to the electoral law were key aspects of the 2005 peace accord.
The row between the two groups reached crisis point on Monday after Sudanese police detained three senior opposition figures — including Amum — and dozens of demonstrators from the south\’s ruling party as part of a broad crackdown against a planned protest.
Southern protesters had responded by torching the NCP office in the southern city of Wau.
US envoy Scott Gration is expected in Sudan on Sunday evening in a bid to defuse tensions between the two.
"Special envoy Scott Gration will return to Sudan this weekend to help restart dialogue and resolve outstanding issues that are contributing to these rising tensions," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement on Thursday.
Beshir\’s NCP and the SPLM had so far failed to agree on democratic reforms, threatening the 2005 peace deal that saw the largely Christian and black African south win regional autonomy under SPLM leadership, with a referendum on its potential full independence slated for January 2011.
The 2010 general election will be the first in Sudan since 1986, three years before Beshir toppled a democratically elected government in a bloodless military coup, and the fifth since independence in 1956.
Registration for the regional, legislative and presidential elections began on November 1 and was to have ended with the month, but was extended until December 7 after a request from opposition parties and former Southern rebels.