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Sudan warns South as fresh clashes alleged

A man looks through the remains of a house destroyed by a Sudan Armed Forces airstrike (© 2009 AFP)

Sudan warned its Southern neighbour on Tuesday over widening “aggression” as the South alleged fresh clashes despite an African Union peace initiative.

“The government of Sudan confirms that South Sudan and its army are working to widen the aggression and occupy some disputed points and areas by force,” Khartoum’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

“Sudan cannot allow the occupying troops to impose their power.”

The statement came more than a week after South Sudanese soldiers said they had completed a withdrawal from Sudan’s main oil region of Heglig, which they occupied for 10 days in a move that coincided with Sudanese air strikes across the border in South Sudan.

Sudan’s military said it forced the Southerners out of Heglig.

It was the most serious fighting in a month of border clashes and raised fears of wider war.

Allegations of clashes have continued even after the Heglig occupation ended.

In its statement, the foreign ministry said South Sudanese troops on Monday occupied a disputed area on the border of Sudan’s Darfur and South Sudan’s Western Bahr el-Ghazal state.

This came a day after the South took over another disputed point on the Darfur border, the ministry added.

It said the South has “a plan to continue the war and disturb peace and security and stability along the border between Sudan and South Sudan.”

Each side denies backing rebels on the other’s territory in a proxy war after failing to settle outstanding issues over contested territory, oil revenues and borders.

The South became independent last July after an overwhelming “yes” vote under a 2005 peace deal that ended a 22-year civil war.

On Tuesday, the South’s army said Sudanese troops and allied militias clashed with South Sudanese troops along the disputed border.

“Sudanese forces, militias and mercenaries attacked our positions in Hofra in the oil region of Unity state,” Southern army spokesman Philip Aguer said.

It was not possible to independently verify the situation.

Southern troops “repulsed the attackers” and captured three trucks, Aguer said, adding soldiers were preparing for an assault believed planned by Sudan.

South Sudanese youth in the north have been reported kidnapped by armed South Sudanese gangs in Sudan and sent to fight in the border zone, including in Heglig, South Sudan’s ambassador told AFP in an interview.

Last week the UN Security Council started talks on a resolution that could allow sanctions against Sudan and South Sudan if they do not meet African Union (AU) demands to end their border clashes which began in late March.

The AU’s security organ urged both sides to reach a deal within three months on oil and citizenship issues, pull forces from the contested Abyei region and agree on a demarcated border.

Among other measures, the roadmap sought an immediate cessation of all hostilities including aerial bombardments, withdrawal of troops from each other’s territory and an end to backing for rebel groups.

Sudan on Sunday notified the AU that it agreed to the roadmap, the foreign ministry said in its statement on Tuesday.

On Saturday, the South’s government said it was ready to pull its police out of Abyei to meet the AU demands.

The British embassy, meanwhile, said Tuesday that it had met with one of its citizens allegedly detained by Sudan’s army along the tense southern border and he was in good condition.

Chris Fielding, the Briton, has been held for at least three days along with Norwegian John Sorbo, South African Thabo Siave and an unidentified South Sudanese.

The UN expressed concern after the governor of Sudan’s White Nile state declared thousands of South Sudanese a security risk and ordered them to leave by Saturday the way-station of Kosti, south of Khartoum.

They have been encamped there waiting for transport to the South.

“As those awaiting repatriation from Kosti … are in a vulnerable position and lack many basic services including adequate shelter, vital and quick collaboration is needed from Sudan and South Sudan to alleviate the hardship of those stranded”, said Ali Al Zaatari, the United Nations resident representative and humanitarian coordinator.

Signature : Abdelmoneim Abu Edris Ali KHARTOUM (AFP)

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