JUBA/KHARTOUM, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Sudan said it would not withdraw its army
from the disputed Abyei region by Friday as expected by the United Nations,
triggering sharp criticism by its former civil war foe South Sudan.
A senior U.N. official said earlier this month Khartoum had agreed with
newly-independent South Sudan at talks in Ethiopia to pull out by Friday
from Abyei which both sides claim.
Sudan's army took Abyei in May in a show of force which triggered an exodus
of more than 100,000 civilians after the southern army attacked an army
On Friday, the Sudanese army said it would stay in Abyei beyond September
until U.N. peacekeepers being sent from Ethiopia to observe a ceasefire were
"We are not against a withdrawal but we are waiting for the complete
deployment of the Ethiopian troops. So far only half of the Ethiopian troops
are on the ground," said army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad.
"A withdrawal without the complete deployment of the Ethiopian troops would
disrupt Abyei's administration. The (Ethiopia) agreement says the withdrawal
will come after the complete (U.N.) deployment," he said.
The U.N. said the agreement was to pull the forces out.
"We urge the parties to implement the agreement they reached early this
month and to withdraw their forces from the Abyei area so as to facilitate
the return of the displaced population and ensure the smooth beginning of
the migration season," Martin Nesirky, spokesman for U.N. Secretary General
Ban Ki-moon, said in New York.
South Sudan said Khartoum had no intention at all of withdrawing from Abyei
and was trying to prevent civilians returning to the region which contains
fertile grazing land.
South Sudan's army, or SPLA, said it had withdrawn all forces from Abyei
which also has some small oil reserves.
Khartoum had on Friday for the second time cancelled a meeting of a joint
Abyei commission in charge of running the disputed region, said Luka Biong
Deng, South Sudan's co-chair of the commission.
This "confirming suspicions that all along, its (Khartoum's) primary concern
is not to withdraw its forces from Abyei area...but in continuing its
occupation and ensuring that the area's true residents never return," Deng
said in a statement.
South Sudan seceded in July after an independence vote in January agreed
under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war that killed more
than two million people.
Such a vote was originally also planned in Abyei but was never held as both
sides are unable to agree who can participate. (Reporting by Hereward
Holland in Juba and Khalid Abdelaziz in Khartoum; writing by Ulf Laessing;
editing by Philippa Fletcher)
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Received on Fri Sep 30 2011 - 19:34:06 EDT