* Militia was seen as threat to new nation's stability (Adds Enough Project
statement, background on Athor)
JUBA, Dec 20 (Reuters) - South Sudan's army said on Tuesday it had killed a
prominent rebel leader near the border with the Democratic Republic of
Congo, dealing a blow to insurgents who have threatened the security of the
South Sudan split away from Sudan in July under a peace deal that ended
decades of civil war with Khartoum, but the young, oil-producing country has
struggled with multiple armed uprisings.
George Athor, who left the south's Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA)
saying the country's dominant party had rigged an election last year, was
killed in Morobo County in South Sudan's Central Equatoria state, SPLA
spokesman Philip Aguer said.
"George Athor was killed in Marobo County when he tried to enter South Sudan
from Congo. He met with a clash with an SPLA patrol unit," Aguer said,
adding that one SPLA soldier was killed and another wounded in the fighting.
Athor was returning to recruit more soldiers, Aguer said. He did not say
when the clash took place.
The rebel leader was considered one of the biggest threats to South Sudan's
stability, although reports have varied widely over the size of his force,
which remained focused in remote border areas between Jonglei and the
oil-producing Upper Nile.
South Sudan's army said in February Athor may have had around 2,000 men
under his command, while Athor has claimed to lead a force of thousands
capable of taking major centres across the country.
The army blamed forces aligned to Athor for an attack last month that killed
nine people, including six civilians, in Jonglei - the site of an oil field
controlled by France's Total .
South Sudan has accused Khartoum of flying in arms and cash for Athor's
troops in an attempt to destabilise the country. Khartoum dismisses the
The old civil war foes have regularly accused the other of backing rebel
groups on either side of the tense and poorly-drawn border since South
Sudan's independence, complicating talks over unresolved issues like debt
James Nuot Puot, a spokesman for Athor's group, said he could not confirm
the reports of his commander's death. Calls to Athor's satellite phone were
John Prendergast, co-founder of the activist group Enough Project said
Athor's reported death did not mean an end to South Sudan's divisions.
"Another Athor will emerge tomorrow unless real progress is made in
providing political and economic opportunities" to groups that feel
marginalised, he said in an emailed statement.
Aguer said he believed Athor's death would be a major blow to the rebel
militia but they would likely continue to fight. "The rebellion will not
end, but it will be weaker," he said.
About 2 million people died in Sudan's civil war, waged for all but a few
years from 1955 to 2005 over oil, ideology, religion and ethnicity.
(Reporting by Alexander Dziadosz and Ulf Laessing; Editing by Andrew
Oil firms to participate in Sudan oil dispute talks
Tue Dec 20, 2011 6:51pm GMT
ADDIS ABABA Dec 20 (Reuters) - Sudan and newly independent South Sudan have
agreed to include international oil companies in talks to resolve a dispute
over how much the new African nation should pay to use Khartoum's oil export
facilities, officials said on Tuesday.
South Sudan took away two thirds of Sudan's 500,000 barrels per day of oil
production when it became independent in July under a 2005 peace deal with
Khartoum. Oil is the main source of revenue for both governments.
The landlocked South Sudan will have to pay Khartoum to use its oil pipeline
and Red Sea port to sell the oil but the two sides have been unable to reach
an deal at talks in Ethiopia.
At stake are oil sales, worth around $3 billion, that South Sudan has
contracted since its independence. The companies operating in both countries
are mainly Asian, such as China's state firm CNPC.
"We (South Sudan and Sudan) agreed today to allowing oil companies to
participate in forthcoming negotiations because some of these companies have
a stake in the issue," South Sudan's top negotiator Pagan Amum told Reuters
after the latest round of bilateral talks in Ethiopia.
An official at the African Union panel that is trying to resolve the
standoff confirmed Amum's comments.
Talks will resume in January.
South Sudan accused Khartoum last month of temporarily blocking loading of
crude. Sudan denies the charges.
Tensions have also escalated between north and south over violence in the
volatile common border region. Khartoum and Juba accuse each other of
supporting rebels in their territories. (Reporting by Aaron Maasho; Writing
by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Anthony Barker)
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Received on Wed Dec 21 2011 - 07:56:12 EST