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Sudan shrugs off Burundi’s signing of new Nile water deal

March 3, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – Burundi’s joining of a new agreement to alter shares of the Nile River’s water was “expected”, Sudan’s Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources said on Wednesday, reiterating his country’s rejection to the pact.

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Sudan’s Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Kamal Mohamed Ali

Sudan and Egypt in particular have ardently opposed an agreement signed in May last year by four of the Nile’s upstream countries – Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda – to alter shares of the Nile water as defined in a colonial-era accord which gives Egypt the lion’s share of the water and the right to veto Nile projects proposed by other countries.

The new agreement was signed after 13 years of failure in talks between the Nile basin countries to reach an agreement guaranteeing an equitable use of Nile water.

Under the old accords, Egypt receives 55.5 billion square meters of water annually, out of the estimated total 84 billion square meters, whereas Sudan receives the second largest share, 18 billion cubic meters per year.

Burundi on Monday signed up to the new pact known as the Nile Basin Initiative, rendering it ready to go into effect pending ratification by local parliaments in the countries that signed it.

Sudan’s minister of irrigation and water resources, Kamal Ali Mohamed, said in statements carried on Wednesday by the country’s official news agency SUNA that Burundi’s joining of the agreement was “expected.”

The minister went on to say that Sudan’s stance towards the new deal remains unchanged because it ignores the existing rights and does not enjoy consensus by all Nile basin countries.

Sudan will officially split in two this July after South Sudan voted in a referendum in January to break away from the north and form an independent state.

The soon-to-be independent South Sudan has not declared an unequivocal position on the Nile water dispute but most analysts say the south is likely to join other upstream countries in calling for more shares from downstream Egypt.

Egypt’s foreign policy has been in a limbo since weeks of popular protests ousted long-serving President Hosni Mubarak last month.

But Egyptian officials said that the new agreement is not binding to Egypt even if it goes into effect.

(ST)