UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday circulated to the U.N. Security Council a draft resolution that warns Sudan and South Sudan of sanctions if they do not comply with African Union demands to swiftly stop border clashes and resolve their many disputes.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters the Security Council would begin discussing the draft resolution on Thursday and that it would likely need at least a few days of talks among members before going to a vote.
The AU's Peace and Security Council on Tuesday urged both sides to cease hostilities within 48 hours and to withdraw troops from disputed areas, and warned it would issue its own binding rulings if they fail to strike deals on a string of disputes within three months.
The draft resolution, obtained by Reuters, reaffirms those demands and warns Khartoum and Juba of "its determination, in the event that one or both of the parties have not complied, to take appropriate additional measures under Article 41 of the (U.N.) Charter."
Chapter 7 Article 41 of the U.N. Charter allows the council to impose sanctions to enforce compliance with its decisions.
"The intention of the text was to provide swift and substantive support to the decisions of the African Union in the form that the African Union requested," Rice, president of the 15-nation Security Council for April, told reporters.
The AU asked for the Security Council to pass a resolution making its demands legally binding on both Sudan and South Sudan.
"There were some members who either need more time to get guidance from their capitals or who are skeptical of the wisdom of going directly to a resolution," Rice said. "This is extremely urgent."
Council diplomats said privately that China and Russia, which are usually reluctant to impose sanctions on any nation, had expressed reluctance to threaten the two Sudans with punitive measures. Beijing has traditionally acted as Khartoum's protector on the Security Council.
Khartoum's U.N. Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman told reporters that any council resolution on the conflict should direct its threats at South Sudan.
"We have been the victim during this last aggression," he said, adding that any U.N. measures should be "directed to the culprit, to the aggressor, not to the victim."
Osman added that the deadlines in the AU communique and the draft resolution needed to be changed.
"The time frame contained in the communique needs to be adjusted because it's very short to adhere to," he said.
Clashes along the ill-defined border between the former civil-war foes has led to a standoff over the Heglig oil field after it was seized earlier this month by troops from South Sudan, which declared independence last year.
The Security Council last week discussed possibly imposing sanctions on Sudan and South Sudan if the violence did not stop.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir said hostilities this week - after South Sudan had said it would withdraw from Heglig - amounted to a declaration of a war by his northern neighbor.
Distrust runs deep between the neighbors who are at loggerheads over the position of their border, how much the landlocked south should pay to transport its oil through Sudan, and the division of national debt, among other issues.
Both are poor countries - South Sudan is one of the poorest in the world - and the dispute between them has already halted nearly all the oil production that underpins both economies.