UN concerned over Sudan
New York - The UN Security Council on Tuesday expressed concern about a delay in holding a self-determination referendum in southern Sudan, while UN leader Ban Ki-moon said he feared a "wider conflict" between the north and south.
The Security Council also expressed "deep concern" about renewed conflict in the stricken Darfur region, where the UN estimates that at least 300 000 people have died since 2003.
The council said in a statement that it was "concerned" over delays by the Khartoum government in releasing funding for the January 9 referendum in South Sudan and nearby region of Abyei.
It called for renew efforts to make sure the vote is held on time, which many diplomats however believe is now impossible. Voter registration got under way as scheduled on Monday, but other preparations for the vote are seriously delayed.
Negotiations between Abyei leaders and the Khartoum government are also deadlocked.
The vote is part of a 2005 peace accord which ended two decades of civil war in Sudan in which two million people died.
Ban, the UN secretary general, said the United Nations had made contingency plans for violence after January 9, and had positioned emergency food and other supplies.
He said there had been "hostile statements" and accusations of ceasefire violations on the North-South border which risked provoking security incidents "that can escalate into a wider conflict".
"The potential for unintentional conflict is especially high" in oil-rich Abyei, where there are the strongest fears that the referendum will not be held on time, the UN leader said.
"Emotions are running high and little progress has been made in finding a solution to the political impasse," Ban said of the talks between Abyei leaders and Khartoum representatives.