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December 4, 2010 (KHARTOUM) – Last year Sudan’s northern neighbor, Egypt, lobbied to the United States to postpone southern Sudan’s self determination referendum by four to six years as it feared that the new nation could put its share of the Nile’s water in jeopardy according to a leaked US diplomatic cable.

In the cable, Cairo said southern secession in 2011 could have "fatal implications". Egypt believes that the south’s independence could destabilize the region causing an increase in migrants into Egypt.

South Sudan’s plebiscite was agreed as part of a 2005 peace deal between southern rebels and the northern government, which was witnessed by Egypt as well as the US.

The cable from October 2009 said that the likely vote in favor of separation “would be the creation of a ’non-viable’ state that could threaten Egypt’s access to the Nile waters".

Egypt is in dispute with other nations in the Nile basin over the amount water it is allocated from a colonial era agreement with Britain, which gives Egypt the majority of the rivers water.

Ethiopia has led a group of African countries in calling for a renegotiation of the agreement to “achieve sustainable socioeconomic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile Basin water resources."

Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia signed the new pact in May inviting other Nile riparian countries to sign the deal within a year. Sudan has so far sided with Egypt in the dispute.

The leaked cable said that discussions over between Egypt and other Nile basin nations were "tense."

In the past, Egypt has threatened to go to war with any country that tampers with the Nile. It appears that Egypt fears that a newly independent Southern Sudan could take a different stance than Khartoum and side with Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia in order to be able to use more the White Nile’s water.

Negotiations between the north and south ahead of the referendum have so borne little fruit so far although last week the two sides agreed a preliminary agreement to share Nile waters if the south votes to go its own way in January.

The leaked cable from the US embassy in Egypt, published Cairo’s Almasry Alyoum newspaper, was one of 600 US documents released by the Wikileaks organization. These are the first of 251,000 classified US diplomatic and military cables Wikileaks plan to release.

In last year’s, cable Egyptian officials asked the US to "educate" southern leaders on potential dangers of separation and encourage the US to advocate for the Africa’s largest country to remain united.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement between Sudan’s south and the Khartoum government share power and the south’s oil wealth for a six year interim period.

Egypt suggested that the deal be amended to give the south autonomy for a ten year period rather than the six years initially agreed. This period Egypt said would allow the region to develop south Sudan’s "capacity for statehood".

In April 2009 a separate cable said that Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff was told by Egypt’s spy chief Omar Suleiman that "Egypt does not want a divided Sudan."

On Friday Egyptian newspaper, Al Masry Al Youm, reported that ‘Egyptian companies with investments in Sudan are considering several possible scenarios for dealing with the outcome’ January’s poll, although officials said the result would not affects investments in either the south or north.

The report said that Egyptian investment in Sudan in 2010 reached $2.5 billion making it the third largest Arab investor in Sudan.

source 1 (sudantribune)

source 2 (BBC)

source 3 (Reuters)
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