Sudan rejects UN call for Abyei pullout

AFP , Sunday 5 Jun 2011

Sudan's Foreign Minister Ali Ahmad Karti has rejected a request by the UN Security Council to withdraw its troops from Abyei, the first official response to those demands

"Sudan does not need to be asked to pull its army out of Abyei because this is a Sudanese territory," Karti said in comments published late on Saturday by SUNA state news agency, echoing statements by President Omar al-Bashir.

"The army's entering the area to handle the security situation there was necessitated by the continued security breaches committed by the other party," he added, referring to the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

Speaking in Khartoum after meeting his Egyptian counterpart Nabil al-Arabi, Karti repeated his ministry's insistence the army would remain in the bitterly contested area until a comprehensive agreement is reached.

Khartoum's troops overran Abyei, a poor but fertile region on the frontier with southern Sudan, on May 21 and razed much of the main town, prompting at least 60,000 people to flee the region, according to UN estimates.

Bashir had already rejected calls by the United States and European Union to withdraw its forces from Abyei. Russia, China and three African nations joined the western powers in backing Friday's Security Council statement.

The 15-nation Security Council described Sudan's military operations in Abyei as a "serious violation" of a 2005 peace accord that ended more than two decades of civil war with the south, in which about two million people died.

Most of those who fled the northern army's occupation of Abyei are pro-southern Dinka Ngok residents.

The Arab Misseriya nomads from the north, who migrate south each year to water their cattle, are said to have moved in with the Sudanese troops, in what some have described as "state-sponsored ethnic cleansing."

The Security Council expressed "grave concern following the reports about the sudden influx of thousands of Misseriya into Abyei town and its environs that could force significant changes in the ethnic composition of the area."

The army itself has urged people who fled the violence to return to Abyei, but the south's vice-president Riek Machar has said its very presence was preventing them from doing so.

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