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Quiet on Sudan-South border after UN deadline

The first in a series of UN-imposed deadlines appeared to pass quietly along the Sudan-South Sudan border Saturday, but there is high-level Sudanese opposition to the UN demands

AFP , Saturday 5 May 2012
Sudan
South Sudan soldiers. (Photo: Reuters)
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Both Khartoum and Juba have pledged to seek peace after the UN Security Council on Wednesday gave their two countries 48 hours to stop fighting, including Sudanese air raids which it condemned. There were no reports of direct fighting after the 1500 GMT Friday deadline, but Sudan maintains that South Sudanese "aggression" continues in the form of direct occupation of other disputed areas along the border, and by support for rebel groups inside Sudan.

South Sudan's army spokesman Philip Aguer said on Saturday that he had received no fresh reports of conflict. On Friday his army was "in a defensive position and have been told today by the commander in chief... not to move and to respect the ceasefire," he said. But he accused Sudanese artillery of bombarding the south's frontline army bases at Panakuach, Lalop and Teshwin ahead of the UN deadline.

Border clashes between the two nations began in late March, culminating in the South's occupation of Sudan's main Heglig oil region, a move which coincided with air strikes against the South and raised fears of all-out war.

The South said it pulled out of Heglig in response to international calls, including UN condemnation, but Sudan said its military forced out the occupiers.

Allegations of clashes continued even after the Heglig occupation ended, up to the UN deadline which the world body imposed because the situation on the undefined border "constitutes a serious threat to international peace and security."

Magdi El Gizouli, a fellow at the Rift Valley Institute, a non-profit research group, said that although Sudan's foreign ministry sees the UN resolution as "something they could work with", there is high-level opposition within the ruling National Congress Party. "Of course, this is an ominous sign," the Sudanese analyst told AFP from his base in Germany. "I think if more politics is made of it the opposition will get stiffer."

Aguer, in South Sudan, also said Khartoum "is divided between those who want war and those who want peace, unlike South Sudan that has accepted the UN Security Council resolution".

Khartoum's Foreign Minister Ali Karti said Friday on the official Radio Omdurman that "some people" within Sudan are objecting to the roadmap and "want to put the country in trouble." The foreign ministry said Karti had already sent letters to both the United Nations and the African Union (AU) welcoming their resolution and an AU peace roadmap which is essentially contained within the UN document.

But the ministry, in a statement on Friday, said that although Sudan had ended hostilities inside South Sudan "on our territory we will not halt the fighting until South Sudan's troops withdraw."

Sudan accuses the South of backing anti-government rebels from its conflict-hit western region of Darfur as well as those fighting in South Kordofan state and Blue Nile. Gizouli said Khartoum previously referred to the rebels in South Kordofan and Blue Nile -- where fighting began last year -- as insurgents, albeit backed by South Sudan.

But since the Heglig occupation it has started calling them "a foreign army." "This is really a qualitative difference in rhetoric," the analyst said. South Sudan rejects allegations that it backs opposition movements inside Sudan and in turn accuses Khartoum of supporting rebels south of the border.

Under the Security Council resolution, Sudan and South Sudan are required to stop supporting insurgents in each other's territory.

The UN resolution set a series of deadlines, including a resumption of negotiations within two weeks on issues left unresolved after South Sudan separated last July following a 22-year civil war. These issues include oil payments, the status of each country's citizens resident in the other, disputed border areas, and the contested Abyei region.

Failure to comply with the UN demands could lead to sanctions.

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