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UK upgrades diplomatic mission in South Sudan

March 21, 2011 (JUBA) – The United Kingdom (UK) has taken its diplomatic representation in South Sudan to the level of a Consulate General as the oil-producing region hurtles towards the declaration of its independence in less than five month.

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New British General Consul in Southern Sudan Alastair McPhail (www.barganews.com)

South Sudan is set to become the world’s newest nation in July after it voted overwhelmingly in a referendum earlier this year to secede from north Sudan with which it fought nearly half a century of intermittent civil wars that ended with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005.

A number of foreign countries, including China and the US, have already established general consulates in the south which is expected to gain worldwide recognition of its independence.

The transition of British embassy’s office in South Sudan was marked on Wednesday, March 16, when the newly appointed Consul General Alastair McPhail, who served from 2000-2005 in Sudan-related diplomatic posts the most recent of which is his role as UK’s Special Representative to Sudan, arrived in the region’s capital, according to a press release issued by the Consulate.

“The United Kingdom is increasing its presence in Southern Sudan and the establishment of our Consulate General is a key step in strengthening the relationship between our two nations. I look forward to the years ahead,” McPhail said upon arrival in Juba.

The current UK’s coalition government, which was formed in May 2010 by the Conservatives and the Liberal democrats, has been implementing radical austerity measures domestically in reaction to global recession, and a more pragmatic approach towards Sudan.

UK’s state minister for Africa, Henry Bellingham, announced during a visit to Khartoum last year that one of said that one of London’s priorities was to build stronger trade relations with Sudan.

London announced this month that it would be implementing a set of development programs in north and south Sudan focusing on providing clean water; women’s education and justice; health and food security.

UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), which annually devotes over 130 million USD annually to a wide-range of aid programs in the grossly underdeveloped region, will be releasing funds to international organizations to deliver long-term access to clean drinking water for 800,000 people in North Sudan; a primary education for 180,000 more girls in South Sudan.

The recently announced package of aid also includes nutrition support for 10 million people across North and South Sudan; food security and freedom from hunger for 1 million people in South Sudan; access to justice for 250,000 women in North Sudan; and malaria prevention or treatment for 750,000 people in South Sudan.