Sudan’s government wants its $38 billion debt forgiven by international lenders before it separates from an independent Southern Sudan, said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported. “A substantial portion of it should be forgiven so their limited resources are not going out to rich nations, who I think can certainly afford the debt,” Carter told reporters today in Juba, capital of the semi-autonomous region of Southern Sudan. Southern Sudan began a weeklong referendum on Jan. 9 in which voters will decide whether the country should secede from Sudan and form an independence nation. The plebiscite is a key part of a 2005 peace agreement that ended Sudan’s two-decade civil war. Carter said earlier this week that Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir was prepared to let the south secede and keep all of the debt in the north, a claim the northern government rejected. The former U.S. president, whose Carter Center is in Sudan observing the referendum, said today that he had misunderstood Bashir. The future of Sudan’s debt is among key issues that must be discussed in the event of the separation of the two states, which if backed by voters is scheduled to take place on July 9. Other issues that must be negotiated include sharing of oil revenue, citizenship rights and the future of the contested border region of Abyei, where clashes killing at least 76 people have died in clashes over the past five days. Read more.