Khartoum- Sudan (PANA) -- The leaders of Sudan's main national armies, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), have agreed to observe peace during and after the referendum vote on the independence of South S udan.
The north-south defence ministers of the two armies agreed to ensure that peace prevailed on the region after a meeting Thursday, to discuss plans for the indep e ndence vote, according to local media reports Friday.
The Defence Minister, Lt.
Abdul Rahim, said the two armies would ensure tha t the region did not relapse to war, which lasted there for 21 years before a pe a ce agreement was signed in 2005.
"The gun is not a solution to whatever the problem is between the North or the S outh.
Dialogue is the best option to resolve the outstanding issues between the N aivasha peace partners," General Rahim told a news conference.
Talks have been underway in Khartoum to secure basic pre-referendum agreements, among them, the future of the entire Sudan, should the Southerners vote for inde p endence.
Nhial Deng, the Southern Sudanese Minister in charge of SPLA Affairs, the equiva lent of the Defence Minister, affirmed that the two sides had agreed to observe p eace at all costs.
"We have agreed that there would be no return to war under any circumstances.
Th e SAF and the SPLM will allow the political leaders to resolve all issues," said Deng, one of those who negotiated the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA), which he l ped to end the war in Southern Sudan after 21 years.
He said the northern Sudanese living in the South should not fear for their safe ty and citizenship, should the Southern Sudan voters opt for independence from t h e North.
Former South African President Thabo Mbeki has been holding talks between Presid ent Omer Al-Bashir and Vice President Salva Kiir, in an effort to secure crucial pre-referendum deals, including a pledge on the sharing of oil and other revenue s .
However, the main subject of the discussions have also centred on the status of the oil-rich Abyei region, which is expected to vote separately on a referendum o n whether it should be ruled by the North or should belong to the South.
The main clans in the region, the Ngok Dinka clan, feel that the Arab-northern p astoralists, the Missiriya clan, which has been grazing in the region, but which was accused of receiving arms to suppress the Ngok Dinka, should be excluded fro m taking part in the vote.
The US government has proposed that a referendum be excluded in favour of a nego tiated settlement, in which President Al-Bashir would transfer the region to Sou t hern Sudan, in exchange for oil revenue.
African Union officials said the talks are examining all the options and proposa ls.