A joint north-south force will begin deploying on Monday in Sudan's disputed oil-rich region of Abyei to end violence which has killed dozens and forced up to 50,000 people from their homes, its commander said on Sunday.
The battalion, made up of 320 troops from the southern army, known as the Sudan People's Liberation Army, and 319 from the northern Sudan Armed Forces, will train for 10 days before starting patrols, its commander Valentino Tokmac said.
"We will start taking the forces ... of the battalion from tomorrow onwards," Tokmac told Reuters. "All the forces of the joint integrated unit will be fully in Abyei by June 18."
Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and southern leader Salva Kiir had previously agreed to replace northern and southern troops in the town with a new "joint integrated unit" made up of soldiers from both sides.
The two said earlier this month they would ask international arbitrators to solve the Abyei dispute, which many feared could escalate into civil war. Bashir and Kiir said they would decide in one month on which global body would help them reach agreement over the boundaries and other fundamental issues.
Abyei's borders were left undefined in the 2005 peal deal that ended two decades of north-south war and created a national coalition government of the northern National Congress Party and the southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM). The Sudan People's Liberation Army is the armed wing of the SPLM.
At stake is control over a large part of Sudan's oil wealth -- Abyei town is surrounded by lucrative oilfields connected by a key pipeline that runs through the disputed territory.
Last month, a local dispute escalated into sporadic, often heavy fighting between northern and southern troops in the town.
Last Mod: 15 Haziran 2008, 18:13