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Former enemies sign new Sudanese constitution

KHARTOUM, Sudan -- Two former enemies joined forces yesterday to sign into being Sudan's new constitution and pledge to promote peace and renewal in a nation scarred by two decades of civil war.

Former rebel leader John Garang, who was feted in a massive public reception a day earlier after returning to Khartoum for the first time in 22 years, was sworn in as Sudan's first southern and Christian vice president.

Garang's longtime foe, President Omar el-Bashir, who came to power in a 1989 coup, was again handed the presidency under the terms of a US-backed interim constitution.

The charter, which was passed by the Sudanese parliament last week as part of a peace agreement reached in January, calls for wealth and power sharing, democratic elections within three years, and a referendum on secession in southern Sudan after six years.

It also widens political and religious freedoms and ends a state of emergency in place for most of the years Bashir has ruled. The two leaders are expected to form their coalition government by Aug. 9.

Southern rebels, comprising mainly Christians and Sudanese of animist beliefs, had fought the Islamic-oriented government's forces since 1983. The conflict killed more than 2 million people, mainly through war-induced famine.

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