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Obama calls for South Sudan cease-fire

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With just three weeks to go until South Sudan officially becomes Africa’s newest nation, serious fighting between southern and northern Sudanese forces are already pushing this soon-to-be country to the brink of outright war.

In the past few weeks, troops loyal to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir have taken control of the contested areas of Abyei and South Kordofan, border regions that have strong local support for South Sudan’s ruling party, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

Both Abyei and South Kordofan were supposed to hold local votes this year to determine whether they would join the fledgling state of South Sudan or remain part of the North, but those votes have been delayed. Current fighting seems to put a peaceful, democratic resolution of their status out of reach – for now.

Mediators from the African Union have brokered a tentative peace in Abyei, with Mr. Bashir pledging to withdraw his forces from the town of Abyei and both sides agreeing to a deployment of Ethiopian peacekeepers under the AU banner.

President Obama added his weight to calls for a cease-fire today, stressing the need for a political solution.

"There is no military solution," Mr. Obama said in an audio message issued through Voice of America. "The leaders of Sudan and South Sudan must live up to their responsibilities. The government of Sudan must prevent a further escalation of this crisis by ceasing its military actions immediately, including aerial bombardments, forced displacements, and campaigns of intimidation."

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