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Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi will visit Khartoum this week for talks with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, ahead of a referendum on southern independence, the official SUNA news agency reported on Sunday.

During their visit on Tuesday, the visiting Arab leaders will discuss “current events in the country” and “the importance of relations” among the three neighbouring African countries, SUNA said in a short dispatch.

Southerners are set to vote in a referendum on January 9 on whether to remain united with the north or break away and form their own country.

The vote is a key plank of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south that put an end to more than two decades of civil war.

Analysts are predicting that the southerners will opt for independence, and senior officials in Khartoum are even beginning to accept the idea of the split.

Mubarak and Gaddafi held a telephone discussion about the “latest developments in Sudan”, Egypt’s official MENA news agency reported on Sunday.

It also reported that Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit met on Sunday with Sir Derek Plumbly, head of the Assessment and Evaluation Commission that monitors implementation of the CPA.

Gheit said that international and regional countries should support the two main players in Sudan, Bashir’s National Congress Party in the north and the former southern rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in the south, MENA reported.

“The current circumstances in the country need concerted international and regional efforts to support the two ruling partners the National Congress Party (NCP) and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) – to reach a compromise on pending issues to maintain peace and security across Sudan,” MENA quoted Gheit as saying. iol

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