May 31, 2011 / 5:28 PM / in 9 years

Ethiopia to send troops to Sudan's Abyei if asked

* Ethiopia may send troops if both sides want

* Addis has hosted talks by both sides in past

ADDIS ABABA, May 31 (Reuters) - Ethiopia will consider dispatching peacekeepers to the disputed border area of Abyei between north and south Sudan if both Juba and Khartoum lodge a request, an official said on Tuesday.

South Sudan is scheduled to become an independent country in less than six weeks, but both sides have yet to settle potentially thorny issues such as the position of their common border and the sharing of oil proceeds.

“If both sides, Khartoum and Juba, ask us to send peacekeepers along their border, we will consider the request,” Ethiopia’s foreign ministry spokesman Dina Mufti told Reuters.

“It is within our interests and that of the region to maintain stability in Sudan,” he added, declining to say if Addis Ababa had already received such a request.

Khartoum sent tanks and troops into oil producing Abyei on May 21, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee the fighting. But both sides agreed to set up a demilitarised zone along the border after talks in Addis Ababa over the weekend.

Ethiopia is seen as an honest broker by both sides and has hosted numerous meetings between north and south over the past two years. (Writing by Aaron Maasho; editing by Lin Noueihed)

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