Sudan and S.Sudan accuse each other of border attacks

Sat Mar 31, 2012 8:43pm GMT

By Hereward Holland and Aaron Maasho

JUBA/ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Sudan and South Sudan have accused each of launching further attacks in the oil-producing area straddling their border, dashing hopes for a new round of talks designed to end the dispute.

Clashes first broke out on Monday in the worst direct confrontation between the two since South Sudan became independent in July 2011 but died down two days later when South Sudanese troops moved out of the disputed Heglig area, inside Sudan.

But on Friday Sudan launched an aerial bombardment on South Sudanese army border positions, according to South Sudan's army. A Sudanese army spokesman in Khartoum said it attacked with artillery, not aircraft, and only in response to an earlier South Sudanese artillery attack on Heglig.

The United Nations and the United States have both warned that the clashes could reignite a civil war that stretched for decades between the mainly Muslim north and the Christian and animist South.

The Heglig field is key to Sudan's economy because it accounts for around half of the 115,000 barrels of oil Sudan produces each day. The field was awarded to Sudan by the Permanent Arbitration Court in 2009 but some southern officials have laid claim on it.

At the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, the first set of talks since violence erupted were due to begin on Saturday but would now not take place until at least Sunday, diplomats there said.

"We are here and we are ready to talk," Idris Abdelgadir, head of Sudan's negotiation team, told Reuters as he arrived, but his counterpart accused Khartoum of delaying.

"We are still waiting for talks but they never showed up," Juba's top negotiator Pagan Amum told Reuters. "That's because they are planning to carry out more attacks on South Sudan."   Continued...

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