Sudan tribal chief threatens vote in border region

A powerful Sudanese Arab tribal chief has warned that his tribesmen could derail a crucial January vote in a contested oil-rich region if they are kept from the polls.

Abyei, rich in oil and grazing fields, straddles the north-south Sudanese boundary. Its residents are to vote Jan. 9 whether they want to be part of northern or southern Sudan. On the same day, the south holds a referendum on whether to split from the north and become an independent country.

But there has been a debate on who has voting rights in Abyei.

Southerners say Mukhtar Babu Nimr's Misseriah tribe has cattle-grazing rights in the area but shouldn't vote.

Nimr said on Thursday that his tribesmen could "cause instability and insecurity" if they are not allowed to vote.