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KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan's president on Sunday said the country would adopt an entirely Islamic constitution if the south split away after a referendum, in a speech in which he also defended police who were filmed flogging a woman.
"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," President Omar Hassan al-Bashir told supporters at a rally in the eastern city of Gedaref.
"Sharia and Islam will be the main source for the constitution, Islam the official religion and Arabic the official language," he said.
Southerners are now three weeks away from the scheduled start of a vote on whether to declare independence or stay part of Sudan -- a plebiscite promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of war between the Muslim north and the south where most follow traditional beliefs and Christianity.
That 2005 accord set up an interim constitution that limited Islamic sharia law to the north and recognized "the cultural and social diversity of the Sudanese people."
Bashir also defended police shown lashing a woman in a film 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.
Reporting by Khaled Abdel Aziz; Writing by Andrew Heavens; Editing by Jon Hemming