, BRUSSELS, Feb 5 – The European Union will send its biggest ever observer mission for Sudan\’s key elections in April, an EU foreign affairs spokesperson said Thursday.
"The mission will be deployed on the ground in late February," said the spokesman for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton.
The 130-strong mission will be led by an as yet unnamed member of the European parliament, the spokesman added.
"It will be the biggest observation mission" for the European Union, he added.
The African giant is emerging from two decades of civil war.
The elections are taking place as part of a 2005 agreement between the Muslim north and largely Christian south that ended a 22-year civil war.
The Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA), as the deal is known, also allowed the creation of a semi-autonomous government for the south and paved the way for a referendum on southern independence scheduled for January 2011.
The first multi-party presidential, regional and legislative elections in the country since 1986 will take place from April 11-18.
Up till now the Carter Foundation, founded by former US president Jimmy Carter, has been the sole international body authorised to observe the Sudanese electoral process, leaving many sources to complain that a bigger international presence was necessary.
Nine candidates have been approved to run against President Omar al-Beshir in Sudan\’s April 11 presidential poll.
The candidates include former premier and Islamist Umma party leader Sadiq al-Mahdi, who was ousted in 1989 in a military coup led by Beshir, and Yasser Arman of the southern ex-rebel Sudan People\’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).
In March the international criminal court issued an arrest warrant for Beshir, who is accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, in western Sudan where a bloody ciivil war broke out in 2003.
Human Rights Watch last month accused Beshir\’s National Congress Party and southern authorities led by the SPLM of abuses against opposition supporters.