Bashir says army to continue campaign in oil state

Sat Jul 2, 2011 8:37am GMT

By Khalid Abdelaziz

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said the army would continue its campaign in the flashpoint of South Korfodan, state news agency SUNA said on Friday, dashing hope of a ceasefire ahead of southern secession.

In his first comments since returning from a visit to China, Bashir seemed to contradict comments by a northern official this week that north and south had agreed "in principle" on a ceasefire in the northern oil state.

Fighting between the northern military and southern-aligned armed groups broke out in Southern Kordofan on June 5 and has escalated to include artillery and warplanes. More than 60,000 people are believed to have fled the fighting, the United Nations said.

Both U.S. President Barack Obama and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon have urged a ceasefire in the state to defuse tensions before the south becomes independent on July 9.

"He directed the armed forces to continue their military operations in South Kordofan until a cleasening of the region is over," SUNA quoted Bashir as telling worshippers during Friday prayers.

The military campaign would only stop with the arrest of Abdelaziz el-Helu, the candidate of the southern ruling party Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the governorship vote there in May.

Helu had accused Khartoum of rigging the vote he had lost. Khartoum denied the charges, and the biggest international observer group called the outcome of the vote "credible".

Bashir called Helu an outlaw that needed to be brought to justice for comitting crimes such as killing innocent people, SUNA said.   Continued...

<p>Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir addresses a rally of soldiers in the capital Khartoum, March 16, 2009. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallh</p>
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