South Sudan wants to join Commonwealth: official

The world's newest nation, South Sudan, wants to join the Commonwealth, the bloc's Assistant Secretary General Stephen Cutts said Saturday.

The landlocked African country, which declared independence from Sudan in July after a long civil war, had recognised the potential benefits of becoming part of the 54-nation grouping, Cutts said.

"The newest country on Earth, South Sudan, expressed an interest in joining the Commonwealth almost immediately after it came into existence," he told Australian Broadcasting Corporation television.

"I understand there are other countries (interested in joining)," he added, without naming the nations.

Cutts said South Sudan's interest showed that the Commonwealth, comprised mainly of former British colonies, remained relevant and offered benefits to its members.

"I think it's testament to the fact that in the broader world there is recognition that the Commonwealth has a potential for significant value," he said.

A Commonwealth business forum which preceded this week's leaders' meeting in Perth resulted in deals worth some US$10.5 billion, most centred on the African resources sector, organisers estimate.

South Sudan gained independence from the mainly Arab north after its population of more than eight million, who are predominantly Christian or follow traditional African religions, overwhelmingly backed a referendum on secession in January.

The fledgling nation, which is also one of the world's poorest countries, became a member of the United Nations on July 14 and joined the African Union on July 28.

Neither of the two countries that have most recently joined the Commonwealth, Rwanda and Mozambique, have colonial links to Britain.


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