Sudan deal with South Kordofan and Blue Nile rebels
A deal has been agreed to end weeks of violence in Sudan's South Kordofan state, where northern troops have been accused of ethnic cleansing.
Rebels who fought for the south during Sudan's long civil war are to be either integrated into the northern army or disarmed.
South Kordofan borders South Sudan, which is to become independent in July.
Some 70,000 people have fled their homes, with northern forces accusing of bombing Nuba-inhabited areas.
The agreement, mediated by the African Union, also covers the neighbouring Blue Nile state, which has been relatively peaceful.
The document stresses that any disarmament will be conducted without force.
An attempted disarmament seems to have been the trigger for the recent fierce fighting in South Kordofan, says a BBC reporter.
Anger at UN peace force
The framework agreement, signed in Ethiopia, stipulates that the northerners from South Kordofan and Blue Nile who fought for Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) rebels during the 21-year civil war will be integrated into the national army, or demobilised.
The SPLM now governs South Sudan.
The position of the northern states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile has been fragile ever since the end of the war in 2005, says the BBC's James Copnall in the capital, Khartoum.
The deal commits the Sudanese government and the northern wing of the SPLM to working out the terms for a ceasefire.
In addition, joint political and security committees are to be formed, our reporter says.
The recent clashes in South Kordofan pitted rebels from the Nuba Mountains against the north's armed forces, backed by Arab militias.
On Tuesday, representatives of the Nuba asked the mainly Egyptian UN peacekeepers in South Kordofan to leave the area.
Members of the Nuba Mountains-South Kordofan Women and Children Group demonstrated in front of the UN compound in Kauda village, accusing the UN force of siding with President Omar al-Bashir's National Congress Party (NCP) in the recent violence.
The SPLM-North, which enjoyed considerable support among the ethnic Nuba, says it was cheated of victory in recent South Kordofan governorship elections.
The fighting broke out when former SPLM fighters were ordered to disarm after Ahmed Haroun was declared the state's new governor.
Mr Haroun is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity committed in Darfur.
During the weekend, he said the situation in South Kordofan was now safe and people had started to return to their homes.
But rights group Amnesty International said those who fled were being forced to go home despite continuing violence.
"Ordering families to return to a highly dangerous region where bombings continue is senseless," said Amnesty International UK's Tim Hancock.
There were reports of freshly laid landmines around the state capital, Kadugli, and concern that humanitarian agencies are being prevented from accessing many areas, he said in a statement.
Both Sudan and the South are reliant on their oil revenues, which account for 98% of South Sudan's budget. But the two countries cannot agree how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north. It is feared that disputes over oil could lead the two neighbours to return to war.
Although they were united for many years, the two Sudans were always very different. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.
Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.
The health inequalities in Sudan are illustrated by infant mortality rates. In South Sudan, one in 10 children die before their first birthday. Whereas in the more developed northern states, such as Gezira and White Nile, half of those children would be expected to survive.
The gulf in water resources between north and south is stark. In Khartoum, River Nile, and Gezira states, two-thirds of people have access to piped drinking water and pit latrines. In the south, boreholes and unprotected wells are the main drinking sources. More than 80% of southerners have no toilet facilities whatsoever.
Throughout the two Sudans, access to primary school education is strongly linked to household earnings. In the poorest parts of the south, less than 1% of children finish primary school. Whereas in the wealthier north, up to 50% of children complete primary level education.
Conflict and poverty are the main causes of food insecurity in both countries. In Sudan, many of the residents of war-affected Darfur and the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, depend on food aid. The UN said about 2.8m people in South Sudan would require food aid in 2013. The northern states tend to be wealthier, more urbanised and less reliant on agriculture.