The president of the autonomous government of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, has ruled out the possibility of a unilateral declaration of independence by the region.
Speaking to Radio Netherlands Worldwide in his first interview since being re-elected in April this year, Mr Kiir said he was committed to conducting a referendum, as agreed on in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
"I don't think that there is any point where southerners will declare a unilateral independence. It is not up to us ... up to the South to declare an independent Southern Sudan without the process that we have agreed upon."
Southern Sudan is expected to vote for full independence in the referendum scheduled for January 2011. Mr Kiir will then almost certainly become the new country's first president.
He has promised democracy, equality and justice for all in Southern Sudan. Homosexuals, however, would not be accepted in the new country.
"It is not in our character [...] it is not there and if anybody wants to import it to Sudan [...] it will always be condemned by everybody."
© Radio Netherlands Worldwide