Sudan would boost Islamic law after split - Bashir
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan will adopt an Islamic constitution if the south splits away in a referendum next month, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said on Sunday.
The vote on independence for south Sudan is scheduled to start in three weeks and was promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended a civil war between the mainly Muslim north and the south, where most follow traditional beliefs and Christianity.
"If south Sudan secedes, we will change the constitution and at that time there will be no time to speak of diversity of culture and ethnicity," the president told supporters at a rally in the eastern city of Gedaref.
"Sharia (Islamic law) and Islam will be the main source for the constitution, Islam the official religion and Arabic the official language," he said.
An official from south Sudan's main party criticised Bashir's stance, saying it would encourage discrimination against minorities in the north and deepen the country's international isolation.
The 2005 peace deal ending the civil war set up an interim constitution which limited sharia to the north and recognised "the cultural and social diversity of the Sudanese people."
Analysts expect most southerners to choose independence in the poll, due to start on January 9 and last for a week.
Yasir Arman, from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), said Bashir's statements would encourage repression in the north. "This type of discourse is preparing the ground for a police state. The north, whether alone or with the south, is an extremely diverse place."
Arman said it was the north's hardline stance that had pushed southerners towards separation. "If it (the north) continues like this it will encourage other areas like Darfur, the Nuba mountains and eastern Sudan to walk out as well," he added, referring to areas on the peripheries of northern Sudan.
"It will also result in Sudan having worse relations with the outside world," Arman said.
Southern leaders have said they are worried about how hundreds of thousands of southerners living in the north might be treated after a split.
Arman, Bashir's main challenger in April presidential elections, is from the northern sector of the SPLM. He said his group would form a separate opposition party inside the north if the south seceded.
Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court to face charges of atrocities in Dafur, but he refuses to recognise the court, dismissing it as part of a Western plot against Sudan.
Bashir also defended police shown lashing a woman in footage that appeared on the video-sharing website YouTube. "If she is lashed according to sharia law there is no investigation. Why are some people ashamed? This is sharia," he said.
Bashir's speech coincided with Independence celebrations in the capital where hundreds of marching soldiers and police put on a show of strength.
Vice president Ali Osman Mohamed Taha said Sudan was ready to deal with insecurity during and after the referendum and the authorities would take action against anyone stockpiling goods to take advantage of recent price rises.
Floggings carried out under Islamic law are almost a daily punishment in northern Sudan for crimes including drinking alcohol and adultery.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Heavens; editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)
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