Bashir says no return to war in south Sudan

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CAPE TOWN, Nov 6 (Reuters) Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said today Khartoum was committed to the north-south peace agreement and there would be no return to hostilities.

''I would like to assure you there will be no return to war whatsoever,'' he said at a state banquet with South African President Thabo Mbeki.

''We are committed to the full implementation of the agreement in letter and spirit ... and work together in genuine partnership for resolving the many issues and for attaining unity of the Sudan,'' said Bashir.

A 2005 peace deal between the Khartoum government and rebels largely based in the southern part of the country ended what had been Africa's longest civil war, which claimed 2 million lives and drove 4 million people from their homes.

But members of the former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) pulled out of the northern government last month saying Khartoum has not implemented key parts of the agreement.

The two sides met today to seek a final deal to end the political crisis.

One issue cited was the presence of government soldiers in southern oil fields.

Yesterday, Bashir said during a visit to Burundi that northern government troops remaining in the semi-autonomous south would quit the region before the end of the year.

REUTERS MP AS0216

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