S.Sudan says to quit border zone, seeks end to clashes

Sun Apr 29, 2012 3:00pm GMT

By Yara Bayoumy

JUBA (Reuters) - South Sudan has told the United Nations it will pull all police out of a disputed region on its border with Sudan and is committed to halting all fighting with its northern neighbour, but Khartoum declared a state of emergency in some border areas.

The conflicting developments on Sunday raised questions whether United Nations and African Union appeals for an end to more than three weeks of border clashes between Sudan and South Sudan would bear fruit and avert full-blown war in the oil-producing region.

South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan nine months ago under a 2005 settlement, told the United Nations it planned to withdraw all police from the Abyei region, according to a letter from Juba's mission to the world body.

The letter, dated April 28 and seen by Reuters on Sunday, also said South Sudan was committed to an "immediate cessation of all hostilities" - after the African Union ordered both parties to stop fighting. The pan-African body has given the rivals a three-month ultimatum to hammer out a deal.

The decision to withdraw from Abyei was taken at a cabinet meeting chaired by southern President Salva Kiir on Saturday.

"All of these acts of peace are being done to reaffirm and demonstrate with concrete measures my government's true commitment to finding a peaceful solution to the outstanding matters with the Republic of Sudan," said the letter.

But in Khartoum, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir declared a state of emergency in some areas of South Kordofan, White Nile and Sinnar provinces bordering South Sudan, the state-linked Sudanese Media Center (SMC) said on its website. It gave no further details.

The areas have witnessed clashes recently between the Sudanese army and the SPLM-north, a militia group that wants to topple Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and whom Khartoum accuses Juba of supporting.   Continued...

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir delivers a speech to students next to a Chinese national flag at Peking University in Beijing April 25, 2012. REUTERS/China Daily
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