May 28 - Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter says Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is ready to pull troops out of the disputed Abyei region. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is ready to pull troops from a disputed border area with South Sudan, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said on Sunday (May 27) describing it as a major step toward achieving peace between the neighbours. Sudan and South Sudan have been at loggerheads over a string of disputes since the southern nation declared independence in July. Clashes near the disputed border raised fears of an all-out war last month. The 2005 peace pact that paved the way for southern secession ended decades of war between the two sides, but they have failed to agree on the position of their shared border, division of debt and the status of disputed areas including Abyei. Carter, speaking to reporters after meeting Bashir on behalf of independent group The Elders, said the Sudanese leader told him Sudan was ready to pull troops from Abyei. "The President notified us that he's already informed Thabo Mbeki and others that he will withdraw the Northern troops-the Sudanese troops from Abyei and obviously we knew in advance that there are only a very few troops left there, and the South has withdrawn their troops. So this is a major step forward I believe and it's very good to hear this news," said Carter Khartoum seized Abyei in May last year, prompting tens of thousands of civilians to flee, after an attack on a Sudanese army convoy blamed on the South. Ethiopian peacekeepers were deployed in the region, prized for its fertile grazing land, after the security council initially authorised the deployment last June. South Sudan withdrew its 700-strong police force from Abyei this month. About 2 million people have died in Sudan's north-south civil war, waged for decades over ideology, religion, ethnicity and oil.