South Sudan troops withdraw from oil area after clashes
Wed Mar 28, 2012 7:59pm GMT
* Eases tensions after two days of clashes
* Tanks, vehicles, bodies left on battlefield
* Fighting worst since South Sudan secession in July (Adds U.N. comment,
Addis Ababa meeting set)
By Ulf Laessing
HEGLIG OIL FIELD, Sudan, March 28 (Reuters) - South Sudan's troops have
pulled out of Sudan's oil-producing Heglig area, both sides said on We
dnesday, easing tensions after two days of clashes between the neighbours
threatened to escalate a simmering conflict.
Both the United States and United Nations called on the countries to halt
the violence - the worst seen since South Sudan declared independence from
Sudan in July, taking most of the country's known crude reserves with it.
South Sudan accused Sudan of bombing major oil fields and other areas on its
side of the border on Monday and Tuesday. Sudan denied the air raids but
said southern troops started the fighting by attacking Heglig, one of the
major oilfields left on the Sudanese side of the border since the split.
The United Nations said on Wednesday that the government of South Sudan had
committed to withdraw its forces to its previous positions and the
government of Sudan agreed to stop bombing if the South Sudan People's
Liberation Army withdrew.
"The Secretary-General (Ban Ki-moon) has expressed his deep concern about
these military clashes and urged the parties to utilize to the fullest
extent existing political and security mechanisms to peacefully address
their differences," Ban's office said in a statement.
Both governments were due to meet in Addis Ababa on March 30, the United
A Reuters reporter taken on a Sudanese government tour of the Heglig oil
field near the border saw no signs of fighting o n We dnesday, but there was
a heavy security presence. Soldiers and machine gun-mounted Toyota pickup
trucks patrolled the area.
"The area of Heglig and the surroundings are totally secure," Heglig area
commander Bashir Meki told reporters. "We are ready (to defend our
country)," he said, as dozens of soldiers shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is
The fighting was fuelled by a festering row between the two countries over
the position of their shared border, the ownership of disputed territories,
and how much the landlocked south should pay to transport its oil through
South Sudan secures its independence under a 2005 peace deal that ended
decades of civil war with Khartoum. Analysts fear a return to full-blown
Three dead men lay next to a burned-out truck at the site of one of the
battles at Heglig. Sudanese soldiers identified the three as SPLA fighters.
"Sixty more soldiers were killed at a power station which the SPLA had taken
temporarily," one Sudanese soldier said.
A gutted tank and two military 4x4s were left on the main road from the
airport to Heglig's vast oil facilities.
"The enemy left Sudan. Not a single southern soldier is left on Sudanese
soil," said General Abdel-Monem Saad, deputy chief of staff for military
operations at the Sudanese army.
The southern army (SPLA) earlier said it had first crossed the border to
Heglig as it pushed Sudanese soldiers out of its territory.
"We declared disengagement and our forces have pulled back from Heglig,"
SPLA spokesman Philip Aguer said on Wednesday.
South Sudan has shut down its production of 350,000 barrels per day to stop
Sudan taking oil for what the Khartoum government calls unpaid fees. Much of
the oil is exported to China.
"WE WILL DEFEND THIS BORDER"
Heglig contains a large oil field on Sudan's side of the border which
Khartoum needs to keep its economy running after it lost three-quarters of
its oil with the South's secession.
The oil field, which pumps around half of Sudan's 115,000 barrels per day of
oil output, was awarded to Khartoum under a ruling by the Permanent Court of
Arbitration in The Hague in 2009, but parts of the border area remain
In Heglig, paramilitary units including men from the local Misseriya tribe,
which is allied to Khartoum, patrolled the area.
"We will defend this border, even without permission from the government,
the United Nations, from anybody," Ismail Hamdien, a Misseriya leader, said.
"We don't want President Bashir to go to (Sudan Sudan's capital) Juba."
Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was due to visit South Sudan in
April to meet his southern counterpart Salva Kiir to try and resolve their
dispute, but cancelled the trip after the violence.
Smoke still rose from a scorched oil workers' housing complex located next
to an oil well further down the road.
One Chinese oil worker dressed in a blue overall said the workers were still
frightened. "We are afraid. This is terrible. We can't work here if we don't
get protected. They destroyed residence buildings," he said.
When asked whether he thought the fighting was over he said: "I am not
sure." (Additional reporting by Hereward Holland; Writing by Alexander
Dziadosz; Editing by Andrew Heavens and)
U.N. mulls reducing peacekeepers in Sudan's Darfur
Wed Mar 28, 2012 8:17pm GMT
* U.N. says violence dwindling after decade-long conflict
* Move likely to anger Darfur activists
* Sudan president facing genocide arrest warrant
By Aaron Maasho
ADDIS ABABA, March 28 (Reuters) - The United Nations is considering cutting
back its peacekeeping mission in Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region as
violence dwindles almost ten years into the conflict, a senior official said
Any scaling down of the force of 28,000 soldiers and police is likely to be
highly unpopular among many international activists who have continued to
accuse the Sudan of carrying out war crimes against civilians in the region
- allegations denied by Khartoum.
The United Nations teamed up with the African Union to deploy the world's
largest peacekeeping mission - UNAMID - in the arid western territory after
fierce fighting erupted there in 2003 and forced hundreds of thousands to
flee their homes.
"(There's) much less organised violence and we have to take account of this
new situation and we will do that by making it so that UNAMID will be made
more agile, more responsive, more mobile both in terms of personnel and
enablers," U.N. Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve
Ladsous told reporters in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa .
"Subject to the decisions of the secretary general and the security council
we are looking at the reduction of the volume of UNAMID over the next 18
months," he said after a meeting with African Union and other officials.
Ladsous said the proposal would be discussed by U.N. Security Council
members in the next few weeks.
Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government in Khartoum,
accusing authorities of leaving Darfur underdeveloped and discriminating
against their tribes.
Khartoum mobilized troops and allied Arab militias to quell the rebellion,
unleashing a wave of violence that Washington and some activists said
amounted to genocide. Estimates of the death count have varied wildly.
The International criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Sudan's
President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and other officials to face charges of
masterminding atrocities in the region. None have faced trial in the global
court in The Hague.
Violence has ebbed from the 2003-04 peak but international efforts to broker
a peace have failed to end the conflict. Sudan's government signed a
Qatar-sponsored peace deal with an umbrella organisation of smaller rebel
groups last year, but the major factions refused to join.
Instead, the major factions announced an alliance with insurgents in two
Sudanese states, aiming to topple the government of President Omar Hassan
al-Bashir. (Reporting by Aaron Maasho; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
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Received on Wed Mar 28 2012 - 17:24:49 EDT