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April 2012 - Posts

Message from Al-Bashir to Russian President on Relation between Sudan and South Sudan

Moscow, April 30 - The Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, has received a written message from the President of the Republic, Field Marshal Omer Al-Bashir, dealing with the developments in Sudan, especially with regard to the relation between Sudan and South Sudan.

The message was handed over by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Ahmed Karti, to the Russian Foreign, Sergei Lavrov, in the outset of the visit paid by Karti to Russia.

Meanwhile, at a joint press conference Karti informed the Russian Foreign Minister on the relations between Sudan and South Sudan State, with concentration on the aggression staged by the Army of South Sudan on Heglig area and the damage and destruction that it has inflcted on the oil facilities and infrastructures in Heglig.

Karti affirmed the call of Sudan for compensations to be paid by South Sudan State for the damage and destruction that it has caused at Heglig oil field.

Karti pointed out that Khartoum is not bracing for an overall war against Juba, adding that Sudan is also committed to repulse aggression.

Karti and Lavrov also tackled the ongoing discussion at the Security Council on a draft resolution concerning the situation of the relation between Sudan and South Sudan.

Meanwhile, Karti reiterated Sudan adherence to the decisions of the African leaders on assumption of the African Union to the task of solution for the pending issues between Sudan and South Sudan.

The Foreignn Minister has appreciated the role being played by the African Union High-Level Panel for Sudan, which is headed by the former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, for finding solution for the controversial issues between Sudan and South Sudan, top of them are the security issues.

He affirmed Sudan keenness to establish normal relations with South Sudan State as long as Juba is serious in dialogue and achieving settlement of the outstanding issues through peaceful means.

The Russian Foreign Minister said that chances are available for reducing the tension and solving the dispute between Sudan and South Sudan through peaceful means.

The Russian Foreign Minister indicated that Moscow has called for immediate withdrawal of South Sudan forces from Heglig as a step to alleviate the tension at the area.

Lavrov asserted that the Security Council resolution on the situation beween Sudan and South Sudan shall be a balanced and fair one, indicating that the resolution does refer to sanctions.

Sudanese information minister resigns amid dispute with presidency over state news agency

April 30, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese Information Minister Abdullah Ali Massar has submitted his resignation to president Omer Hassan al-Bashir in the wake of a dispute over the fate of the director of Sudan’s official news agency (SUNA).

Sudanese Information Minister Abdullah Ali Massar (AFP)

It is not yet known whether Bashir has agreed to accept Massar’s resignation.

Massar has previously suspended SUNA’s director Awad Jadain and referred him to an investigation on alleged administrative and financial irregularities.

But last Friday Bashir issued a decree reversing Massar’s decision and reinstated Jadain. The president also cancelled all investigation into SUNA’s performance ordered by the minister.

SUNA’s director reportedly had the backing of the information state minister Sana Hamad who strongly opposed Massar’s decision and allowed Jadain to resume his work while her boss was travelling abroad.

Massar immediately cut short his trip and took away the SUNA dossier from Hamad and affirmed his decision regarding Jadain.

According to local press reports, Jadain sent a letter of grievance to Bashir regarding Massar’s move against him but this has yet to be confirmed.

SUNA’s director told the privately-owned al-Sudani newspaper in an interview that Massar accused him of keeping secret accounts for SUNA SAT company which works in telecommunications. According to Jadain this was proven to be wrong by Sudan’s central bank.

He threatened to sue Massar over the accusations which harmed his reputation and dignity.

Sudan 'declares emergency' on border with South Sudan

April 29, 2012 (KHARTOUM) — Sudan has reportedly declared a state of emergency along its border with South Sudan after weeks of clashes.

Andrew Harding reports from South Sudan's frontline as clashes continue

The decree will apply in the border districts of the South Kordofan, White Nile and Sennar states, according to the state-run Suna news agency.

Meanwhile, South Sudan has said it is willing to pull its police forces out of the disputed Abyei border region.

The current clashes began earlier this month when South Sudan occupied the Heglig oilfield area for 10 days.

The state of emergency "gives the right to the president and anyone with his mandate" to establish special courts, in consultation with the chief justice, according to Suna.

There were fresh skirmishes between the two countries' forces on Sunday, reports the BBC's Andrew Harding from the Sudan-South Sudan border.

South Sudanese forces fired at helicopter gunships, prompting Sudanese artillery to respond, our correspondent says.

South Sudanese authorities have meanwhile informed the United Nations that it is prepared to withdraw police forces from the disputed region of Abyei.

"The minister of interior will enhance the withdrawal of South Sudan's police force from Abyei... as long as the UN and African Union will look after its citizens in the area", a South Sudanese spokesman told AFP news agency.

'Abduction'

Also on Sunday, a South African de-mining company said two of its employees, who were among four foreigners detained by Sudanese forces on Saturday, were there for "humanitarian work".

"We are doing... landmine clearance on a UN contract and our members have full UN immunity. The abduction took place well within South Sudan territory," Ashley Williams, CEO of state-owned Mechem, told AFP.

The four - from the UK, Norway, South Africa and South Sudan - have been flown to the Sudanese capital Khartoum for "further investigations".

Sudanese officials insist the men were aiding South Sudan, a charge rejected by the South.

Tension between the countries has been rising since the Heglig oilfield was occupied by forces from South Sudan earlier this month.

They left about a week ago, after holding the area for 10 days.

Sudan has been accused of carrying out a number of air raids on South Sudan this week. It denies the charges.

South Sudan became independent from Sudan last year after a civil war that lasted two decades and in which an estimated 1.5 million people were killed.

Al Jazeera | Sudan declares emergency on border with south | 29 April 2012

Sudan arrests foreign aid workers in Higleg working for Juba

April 29, 2012 (KHARTOUM) — Sudan said it arrested a Briton, a Norwegian and a South African, accusing them of illegally entering a disputed oil-producing border area to spy for its enemy South Sudan.

One of the four foreigners captured in Heglig on April 28, 2012, is escorted off an airplane by Sudanese soldiers in Khartoum while SAF spokesperson Sawarmi Khaled, on the right, looks to them (Getty)

South Sudanese officials denied the allegations and said the men were working with the United Nations and aid groups clearing mines and had got lost in the remote territory close to the boundary between the two countries.

Sudanese army spokesman al-Sawarmi Khaled said the three were arrested in Heglig - the scene of recent fighting between Sudan and South Sudan - travelling with a South Sudanese soldier in vehicles carrying military equipment.

"It is now confirmed without any doubt that South Sudan used the help of foreigners in their attack on Heglig. These foreigners were doing military work such as spying out the areas... They had military equipment... They have a military background," Sawarmi said.

The group had been flown to Khartoum, he added.

A Reuters witness saw four men arriving on a civilian plane at Khartoum's military airport.

One of the men, a Westerner, was wearing a t-shirt marked with the slogan "Norwegian People's Aid. Mine Action South Africa"

Reporters were not allowed to talk to the men who were swiftly driven away in an unmarked white van.

Mine clearing

South Sudanese Information Minister Barnaba Benjamin dismissed the Sudanese account as "nonsense", telling Reuters the men were workers for aid groups and the United Nations and had been clearing mines.

South Sudan's army spokesman Philip Aguer said military sources had told him a UN truck had got lost after leaving Paryang, just north of Bentiu, the capital of South Sudan's Unity state, and was "caught by the Sudanese Armed Forces".

Britain's Foreign Office in London confirmed the Briton's arrest and Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) South Sudan director Jan Ledang said one of its staff members had been detained.

"We are trying to confirm the nationalities of the three and the aim and motivation of the three," Norway's ambassador to Sudan, Jens-Petter Kjemprud, told Reuters.

MECHEM, a demining company and an arm of South Africa's state arms company, Denel, said two of its employees, a South African and a South Sudanese, were arrested along with a United Nations employee.

"We are working on a UN demining contract and our employees have full UN immunity," MECHEM's chief executive officer, Ashley Williams, said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

The United Nations mission in South Sudan said one of its officials had been taken to Khartoum with three other men, without going into further detail.

New bombing accusations

More than three weeks of border fighting between Sudan and South Sudan's 1,800 km contested border has brought the African neighbours close to an all-out war, nine months after the South gained independence from Sudan under a 2005 settlement.

South Sudan's army seized Heglig earlier this month but announced a withdrawal more than a week ago, bowing to pressure from the United Nations.

Benjamin said Sudan's war jets dropped eight bombs on Panakuach in Unity state on Saturday.

Sudan's army could not be immediately reached for comment.

Benjamin also said two SPLA soldiers has been killed on Friday after South Sudan repulsed an attack by what it said was a Sudanese-backed rebel militia near Malakal in its Upper Nile state.

China and the African Union (AU) have stepped up diplomatic efforts to try and bring Juba and Khartoum back to the negotiating table.

The United States circulated on Thursday a draft resolution at the UN Security Council that warns both states of sanctions if they do not comply with an AU seven-point peace plan. The deal urges both sides to cease hostilities within 48 hours and to withdraw troops from disputed areas.

The dispute has already halted most oil production in the two countries, damaging their fragile economies.

Heglig losses exceeding $ 700 million

Government docks civil servant wages to fund army

April 28, 2012 – Sudan on Thursday imposed fuel limits and slashed state salaries to aid its war efforts against South Sudan amid estimations its oil revenues had shrunk by 20 percent since the loss of the Heglig oil field to southern troops.

In this Tuesday, April 24, 2012 photo, Sudanese workers inspect burnt out oil pipes at the oil-rich border town of Heglig, Sudan (AP)

AFP - Sudan's already depleted oil revenues have shrunk by a further 20 percent – more than $700 million – after its main oil field was damaged and shut down in fighting with invading Southern troops, an economist estimated on Thursday.

The projection came as the government announced that state agencies in the bankrupt country must slash their use of petrol while civil servants have to donate part of their salaries to support the army in the fight against South Sudan, which occupied Heglig.

"My estimate of the fiscal impact of the loss of the Heglig oil production, my very preliminary estimate, is it's about 20 percent of revenues remaining after the South left" in July last year, said the international economist who asked to remain anonymous.

"It's a significant fiscal hole," he said, estimating the gap at two billion Sudanese pounds (almost $741 million at the official rate).

Even before South Sudan's April 10 occupation of Heglig, the north's economy was in dire condition, economists say.

The South separated last July, taking with it about 75 percent of the formerly united Sudan's oil production worth billions of dollars.

Southern oil represented more than a third of Khartoum's revenues and its largest source of hard currency, leaving the government struggling for alternatives since the independence.

"Compared to a year ago, they've lost 55 percent of revenues," the economist said.

Border clashes between Sudan and South South began late last month, leading to fears of a wider war.

The oil-processing facility and export pipeline in Heglig were burned and damaged during the 10-day occupation by South Sudanese troops. Both sides blamed the other for the damage.

Ibrahim Yousif Gamil, a manager at the facility said it was unclear when production could resume after the shutdown that began when the South seized the field.

Sudan declared last Friday that its army had forced Southern soldiers out of Heglig, but the South said it withdrew of its own accord.

Gamil said Heglig-area output was 50,000-55,000 barrels a day, accounting for about half Sudan's crude production.

The shutdown represents a major loss for the government, since it had earned significant revenue by selling its share of the oil on the domestic market.

After weeks of border clashes, Finance Minister Ali Mahmud al-Rasul has instructed state institutions and companies to set aside a chunk of their budget to the war effort, the official news agency SUNA reported late Wednesday.

The funds would be transferred to "the account of the Campaign for Repulsion of Aggression", and state employees must contribute two days' salary.

"The minister of finance also decided on decreasing the weekly fuel quota for government vehicles by 50 percent," SUNA said.

The economist said he is still assessing these and other measures announced on Wednesday. While they are "a step in the right direction" they are unlikely to stabilise the economy.

"There may be added fiscal costs because of the need to import oil," he said, adding it is impossible to know the military cost of fighting with the South.

While the military already accounted for "a big part" of the national budget, details are murky, the economist said.

Since last year inflation has continued to rise, exceeding 23 percent year-on-year in March, and Sudan's currency has plunged in value. On the black market, one US dollar sells for roughly double the official rate of about 2.7 pounds per dollar.

Sudan has also lost out on potential fees from South Sudan for use of its pipeline and port. In a key dispute, the two sides were unable to agree on how much the South should pay, leading the Juba government in January to shut its production after Khartoum began seizing the oil in lieu of payment.

Roughly $38 billion in foreign debt, along with US economic sanctions, limits Sudan's access to external financing.

The economist said he is not yet aware of Sudan's receiving any significant external financing from Muslim allies.

The International Monetary Fund has forecast Sudan's real gross domestic product to decline by 7.3 percent this year.

AU pushing roadmap for resolution of conflict between Khartoum and Juba

April 26, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) unveiled a new roadmap aimed at resolving the ongoing conflict between Sudan and South Sudan in the wake of the worst military confrontation since the East African nation split into two last year.

In this Tuesday, April 24, 2012 photo, Sudanese workers inspect burnt out oil pipes at the oil-rich border town of Heglig, Sudan (AP)

Sudan managed to take back the oil-rich region of Heglig in South Kordofan last Friday after a 10-day occupation by South Sudan’s army (SPLA). Southern Sudanese officials denied being forced out and insisted that they voluntarily withdrew.

Juba claimed that the area belongs to Unity State and was administratively annexed decades ago into South Kordofan.

However, the AUSPC in its meeting yesterday stressed that north-south borders are defined “as that existing at the time of Sudan’s independence on 1 January 1956, taking into account the disputed areas as agreed in the deliberations of the Technical ad hoc Boundary Committee”.

Border demarcation is one of the key pending issues between the two neighbours that have yet to be resolved despite intense efforts by an AU mediation team.

“Council reiterates that the territorial boundaries of states shall not be altered by force, and that any territorial disputes shall be settled exclusively by peaceful means”.

The AUPSC also expressed disappointment that an agreement over Abyei signed last year has not been implemented in an apparent reference to non-withdrawal of north and south Sudanese forces from the disputed region.

Negotiations between Khartoum and Juba are to resume within two weeks to reach an agreement on oil, citizenship, borders and Abyei, the AUPSC decided. A deal needs to be sealed within three months, according to the road map.

“Should these negotiations fail to result in an agreement on any or all of the issues identified above within the allotted timeframe of three months, Council requests the [AU High-Level Implementation Panel] AUHIP to submit to it a comprehensive report on the status of the negotiations, including detailed proposals on all outstanding issues, to be endorsed as final and binding solutions to the post-secession relations”.

The seven-point roadmap called on both sides to cease hostilities within 48 hours and called for the "unconditional" withdrawal of troops from disputed areas. It also called for cessation of harbouring of, or support to, rebel groups against the other state and cessation of hostile propaganda and inflammatory statements in the media.

The Pan-African body will take “appropriate measures” should there be “failure by either Party to implement the provisions of the Roadmap …..or to cooperate in good faith”.

Sudanese President Omer Hassan al-Bashir has ruled out a return to talks with Juba, saying South Sudan’s government only understands "the language of guns". However, Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti said yesterday that Khartoum was ready to negotiate on "security issues" only at first.

Juba releases Sudanese POWs captured at Heglig

April 26, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Thirteen Sudanese military personnel who were detained in Heglig will arrive to Khartoum on Thursday, the foreign ministry announced here today.

SPLA spokesperson speaks to reporters and behind him Sudanese war prisoners captured during bloody fighting in Heglig, at Juba airport on 15 April 2012 (AFP)

The prisoners of war (POWs) were detained when South Sudanese troops captured the oil-producing town on 10 April and then were flown to Juba from Heglig by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) - South Sudan’s army.

Rahamtallah Mohammed Osman, undersecretary of the foreign affairs ministry told reporters that the POWs will arrive from Cairo, underscoring that their release was coordinated by Egypt, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

A photo posted on the social networking site, facebook showed the POWs dressed in new clothes, new bags, and got paid by the ICRC for transportation whey arrive in Khartoum.

Egypt’s foreign ministry spokesman stated that South Sudanese president Salva Kiir agreed to free the POWs from the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) after Egyptian Foreign Minister, Mohammed Amro, shuttled between Khartoum and Juba in an attempt to bring the two sides to the negotiating table, but he failed to do so.

Meanwhile, SAF spokesperson, al-Sawarmi Khaled told the official news agency, SUNA, that the POWs were captured from Heglig hospital, along with the hospital’s medical team. "They were sick and detained on the 10th of April, not the 20th of April as said by SPLA."

He added that South Sudanese POWs will be treated in accordance with international conventions.

The Sudanese army retook control of Heglig ten days later as Juba announced the withdrawal of its troops after heavy clashes with SAF. Khartoum claimed to have killed over 1,000 SPLA soldiers during the fighting between the two armies.

Sudan’s armed forces came under heavy criticism when South Kordofan government, Ahmed Haroun, told troops in a video obtained by Al Jazeera not to create a administrative burden by bringing POWs.

"Swept, rubbed, crushed. Don’t bring them back alive", he said. But Haroun later accused Al Jazeera of fabricating the video.

Al Jazeera Video: South Sudan captures prisoners of war from North

South Sudan president in China seeking diplomatic support in conflict with Khartoum

April 25, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The president of South Sudan Salva Kiir pleaded the case of his country with China saying that Khartoum has declared war on Juba as he started a five day visit to Beijing.

China’s President Hu Jintao (R) gestures to his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir Mayardit during an official welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing April 24, 2012 (Reuters/Petar Kujundzic)

"It [this visit] comes at a very critical moment for the Republic of South Sudan because our neighbor in Khartoum has declared war on the Republic of South Sudan," Kiir said during his meeting with China’s president Hu Jintao.

"I have undertaken this visit because of the great relationship that I value with China. China is one of our economic and strategic partners," Kiir added.

Last Friday, the Sudanese army managed to recapture the oil-rich region of Heglig after South Sudan occupied it for 10 days sparking the worst military conflict between the two sides since the country split into north and south in July 2011.

On Monday witnesses and officials in South Sudan said that Khartoum air force carried out bombing raids in Unity states that fell on a market in Bentiu.

The escalation comes as a reflection of failure of Khartoum and Juba to settle through negotiations a number of key post-independence items and particularly the issue of how much the landlocked south should pay to transport its oil through the north’s pipelines.

China has been the largest single importer of oil from Sudan prior to the south’s breakup. The latter took 75% of the country’s oil when it seceded.

But earlier this year South Sudan suspended its oil production after Sudan started taking part of the oil as payment in kind to make up for what it called unpaid fees.

Last February, Juba ordered Liu Yingcai, the head of the Chinese-Malaysian oil consortium Petrodar, out of the country and accused him of not honoring the terms of reference of the memorandum of understanding which they signed in December.

The latest Chinese customs data show crude imports from Sudan fell nearly 40 percent in January and February compared to a year earlier.

China made a failed attempt last December to mediate between the two countries on the oil issue. Following that Beijing remained largely silent while calling on Khartoum and Juba to continue dialogue.

But last week, Sudan’s President Omer Hassan al-Bashir threatened to crush the "insect" government of the South, and said the time for talks was over.

The Chinese president appeared careful not to take sides on the Khartoum-Juba row and urged continuation of dialogue.

"The urgent task is to actively cooperate with the mediation efforts of the international community and halt armed conflict in the border areas," Hu was quoted as telling Kiir during a meeting in Beijing.

"China sincerely hopes that South Sudan and Sudan can become good neighbors who coexist in amity and good partners who develop together," Hu added.

Kiir and Hu witnessed signing of several agreements between the two countries that cover humanitarian aid, solar energy and financial cooperation.

Gum Bol Noah,an official from Salva’s office, said China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) was willing to offer South Sudan technical support if Juba decided to build an alternative oil pipeline, making it less reliant on the pipeline running through Sudan.

Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin confirmed to Dow Jones China’s interest in financing the project.

"The Chinese are already there and we will continue with them, no problem" Benjamin said.

"Everybody will apply and we will see who has the capacity and who can generate a good consortium of companies to create money" he added.

Kiir attended the opening ceremony of the South Sudanese embassy in Beijing yesterday and will meet Vice-Premier Li Keqiang today.

Bashir orders army to avenge South Sudan’s attack on Heglig, “purge” borders of rebels

April 24, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese President Omer Al-Bashir has given his army a carte blanche to use “the language of the gun” against neighboring South Sudan in retaliation of the latter’s occupation of Heglig disputed region two weeks ago.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir addresses military soldiers in Heglig April 23, 2012 (REUTERS)

“I direct the army to restore [our] rights and repulse any aggression from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army [SPLA] of the south on any inch of the country and at any time” Bashir declared while addressing dozens of ululating Sudanese troopers at the station of Martyr Al-Fadil in Heglig on Monday.

Heglig was occupied almost two weeks ago by the SPLA before being liberated on Friday by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), according to Khartoum, whereas Juba said it voluntarily withdrew troops in response to international pressure.

The fighting around Heglig, which contains oilfields accounting for almost half of Sudan’s daily output of 115,000 barrels, sparked fears of a full-scale war between the two neighbors as well as heightened war rhetoric, especially on the part of Khartoum.

Al-Bashir, who arrived in Heglig unannounced to inspect the damage Khartoum accused Juba of inflicting on the town’s oil facilities, reiterated that there will be no return to talking with South Sudan unless its ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) is gone.

"One of us has to go" he said before adding that our “dialogue with these people will be through the gun because they only understand the language of the gun.”

The Sudanese president renewed threats against Juba as his air forces bombed three areas in South Sudan’s Unity State on Monday, killing three people.

Bashir, dressed in military uniform, further said he had ordered the army to "purge" Sudan’s borders from rebels.

His statement coincides with reports that Sudanese forces clashed on Monday with rebels of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) which fights in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states on the borders with South Sudan.

Khartoum accuses Juba of supporting the Sudanese rebels who fought as part of the SPLA before South Sudan’s independence but the SPLM says it has already severed links with its former comrades-in-arms.

Al-Bashir promised to teach South Sudan a "final lesson" and award them a "doctorate in treachery, perfidy and cowardice."

The Sudanese president routinely accuses Juba of failing to appreciate what he describes as Khartoum’s fulfillment of its commitment under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) to allow South Sudan’s to secede.

Al-Bashir was accompanied in his visit to Heglig by a cohort of close aides and senior ministers, including Presidential Assistant Nafie Ali Nafie and Abdel-Rahman Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, Minister of presidential affairs Bakri Hassan Salih, the minister of defense Abdel-Rahim Mohammed Hussain.

In a related context, SAF’s commander-in-chief of "Heglig Liberation Operation", Kamal Marof, said that more than 1200 SPLA soldiers were killed in the alleged battle.

Also, SAF’s chief of staff Ismat Abdel-Rahman threatened on Monday that South Sudan will pay the price of damaging oil infrastructure in Heglig.

"The damages they have committed against oil facilities will not go unpunished and they will get to taste it."

Sudan leader visits border town of Heglig

23 April 2012 Last updated at 07:57 ET : Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has arrived in the southern oilfield town of Heglig, which was recently occupied by South Sudanese troops amid fears of all-out war between the countries.

President Bashir declared "victory" over South Sudan's forces at a rally in Khartoum last week

South Sudan's army defeated Sudanese forces near Heglig and took control of the town two weeks ago.

Last week, South Sudan's President Salva Kiir said he had ordered his troops to withdraw from the area.

Mr Bashir has said South Sudan's forces were driven out by his army.

"No negotiation with those people," the AFP news agency quoted Mr Bashir as saying of the South Sudanese authorities on his arrival in Heglig.

"Our talks with them were with guns and bullets," he told soldiers.

The past few months have seen sporadic fighting in the oil-rich areas along the two countries' undemarcated border, prompting fears the violence could escalate into a full-blown war.

'Provocation'

On Monday, Sudanese warplanes dropped bombs near the South Sudanese border town of Bentiu, killing at least one person, according to witnesses.

The witnesses described seeing a huge plume of smoke rising from a market and the body of a dead boy.

South Sudan's deputy head of intelligence, Mac Paul, described the bombing as a "serious escalation" and a "provocation".

Sudan has denied carrying out aerial attacks on its southern neighbour.

Following months of border skirmishes, South Sudan sent its forces into Heglig, saying it was being used as a base for Sudanese attacks on its territory.

Heglig, which used to provide more than half of Sudan's oil, is internationally accepted to be part of Sudanese territory, but the border area is yet to be demarcated.

South Sudan says the area should belong to it, and that the issue should be resolved by international mediation.

Mr Bashir responded by saying that his main goal was now to "liberate" the people of South Sudan from its rulers, describing the former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) government in Juba as "insects" that needed to be eliminated.

The UN Security Council demanded that Juba withdraw its forces from Heglig and the neighbouring Abyei regions, as well as a "complete, immediate, unconditional" end to all fighting.

It also called on Sudan to stop aerial bombing raids on South Sudanese territory.

On Sunday, South Sudan's army said its withdrawal from the area was complete.

Satellite pictures of the Heglig area released on Sunday suggest key oil installations were badly damaged in the fighting and are no longer operating.

The former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) has governed South Sudan since it seceded from Sudan after an overwhelming vote in favour of independence in a July 2011 referendum.

The vote was the outcome of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which put an end to the 22-year civil war between the former north and south of Sudan. About 1.5 million people are though to have lost their lives in the conflict.

The new state took most of the former united Sudan's oil reserves with it, but relies on pipelines to seaports in Sudan to export it.

In January, South Sudan decided to shut down oil production, which provides 98% of the government's revenue, after Khartoum impounded South Sudanese oil shipments amid a dispute over transit fees.

Sudan: A country divided

Sudan’s VP Taha rules out quick return to negotiations with south, reveals Heglig damage

April 22, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese First Vice President Ali Osman Taha suggested that negotiations with South Sudan are pointless and attached certain conditions for that to happen.

Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha (C) and Defence Minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein (R) visit a soldier, who was wounded in recent clashes with South Sudanese forces in the state of South Kordofan, at a military hospital in the capital Khartoum on April 13, 2012 (AFP)

In an interview with Blue Nile TV, Taha also accused Juba of launching economic war on Sudan and gave the example of last week’s attack on the oil-rich region of Heglig by South Sudan’s army (SPLA). The latter occupied it for ten days before Khartoum’s army managed to take it back on Friday.

South Sudanese officials insist that they withdrew voluntarily upon direct orders from President Salva Kiir.

The Sudanese VP claimed that SPLA damaged the operating system software of Heglig oil facilities and set the main controls of the plants on fire. The details and scope of the destruction will be revealed in the coming hours, he added.

Sudan state TV aired footages from inside Heglig showing major destruction in the town while oil facilities were still burning and efforts were made to put out the fires.

The safety officer in Heglig oil field Osama Al-Sayed alleged that SPLA caused impairment of the pumping station at the main field after destroying the central control room and the oil processing center.

"Production stopped [in Heglig] throughout the war and that was pumping around 70,000 barrels and now we have lost about 60% of oil production in the North" al-Sayed said.

Heglig oil fields account for roughly half of Sudan’s oil production. Any loss in production capacity will further compound the country’s economic woes that were triggered by the loss of the oil-rich south last July.

The Washington-based Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) said in a statement today that new satellite imagery revealed that a key part of the pipeline infrastructure was destroyed.

“The damage appears to be so severe, and in such a critical part of the oil infrastructure, that it would likely stop oil flow in the area,” SSP’s statement read.

“Based on Harvard Humanitarian Initiative analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery, SSP has concluded that what appears to be an oil collection manifold – equipment which allows for the diversion or combination of oil flows without interruption – was apparently blown up in some type of explosion,”

SSP went on to say that it cannot make a determination whether the damage resulted from aerial bombardment by Sudan air force or from ground battles between north and south armies.

Sudan said it will sue the south internationally to seek reparations for the damages in Heglig.

Taha accused South Sudan of impeding the agricultural season and destroying crops. This along with Heglig incident, he said was aimed at paralyzing Khartoum economically to push Sudanese people towards revolution against the government.

He dismissed Juba’s talk about resuming post-independence negotiations describing it as an attempt to jump over its defeat in Heglig.

“What negotiations and what interest is Juba looking for when it isn’t even respecting its citizens?” Taha posed the question.

The Sudanese VP stressed that there will be no return to talks with Juba before the withdrawal of all its troops from Sudanese territory. Taha added that he doesn’t think peace will be achieved with Juba’s current leaders.

He accused the U.S. of siding with Juba despite Washington’s call for immediate and complete withdrawal of SPLA from Heglig.

Obama to Sudan and S.Sudan: War is not inevitable

April 21, 2012 South Sudan and Sudan must stop all military actions against each other and resolve their disputes through negotiations to avoid going back to war, U.S. President Barack Obama said, as he outlined what needs to be done to prevent the conflict from escalating further.

Obama urges talks between Sudan, S. Sudan to avoid war

Addressing the people of Sudan and South Sudan in a videotaped message released Friday, Obama said that the heated rhetoric from the two countries has raised the risk of war, but conflict is not inevitable.

"It doesn't have to be this way...You still have a choice. You still have a chance to avoid being dragged back into war, which only leads to one place — more suffering; more refugees; more death; more lost dreams for you and your children," he said.

Obama said the government of Sudan must stop its military actions, including aerial bombardments in the South and it must give aid workers the access they need to save lives. Sudan must also end its support for armed groups inside the South, he said.

Likewise, he said the government of South Sudan must end its support for armed groups inside Sudan and it must cease its military actions across the border.

"And all those who are fighting including in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile must recognize that there is no military solution. The only way to achieve real and lasting security is to resolve your differences through negotiation," Obama said.

Sudan and South Sudan have been drawing closer to a full scale war in recent months over the unresolved issues of sharing oil revenues and a disputed border. The disputes began even before the south seceded from the north in July 2011. The South's secession was part of a 2005 peace treaty which ended decades of war that killed 2 million people.

Sudan and South Sudan both claimed Friday to be in control of a contested oil town near the countries' ill-defined border after the south said it was withdrawing its troops to avert a return to war.

Last week, South Sudanese troops took over the border town of Heglig, which they call Panthou, sending Sudanese troops fleeing and sparking condemnation from the U.N., America and Britain.

Sudan's President Omar Al-Bashir on Wednesday threatened to topple the South Sudan government after accusing the south of trying to take down his Khartoum-based government. Al-Bashir continued his hardline rhetoric on Thursday in an address to a "popular defense" brigade headed to the Heglig area.

Negotiations between the two countries over the unresolved disputes that were being mediated by the African Union, broke down in Ethiopia earlier this month.

Obama said the presidents of Sudan and South Sudan must have the courage to resume negotiations and resolve the disputes peacefully.

"You will never be at peace if your neighbor feels threatened. You will never see development and progress if your neighbor refuses to be your partner in trade and commerce. It's easier to start wars than to end them," he said.

Sudanese president vows to prevent south from using oil pipelines in aftermath of Heglig fighting

April 21, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir on Friday announced that his country will not allow its southern neighbor to export any of its oil through the pipelines in the wake of the worst fighting between the two countries since they broke up into two last year.

Sudanese President Omer Hassan al-Bashir waves to supporters after receiving victory greetings at the Defence Ministry, in Khartoum April 20, 2012 (Reuters)

Bashir was addressing thousands of his supporters in Khartoum who were celebrating today’s recapture of the Heglig region in South Kordofan which was taken over by South Sudan army early last week.

"We don’t want fees from the oil of South Sudan and we will not open the pipeline,” Bashir said.

“There is no oil from South Sudan that will pass through our pure land, so that not one dollar goes to these criminals," he added.

The landlocked south has failed to agree with Sudan on how much fees it should pay for exporting its oil through the north’s infrastructure. Khartoum, frustrated by lack of an agreement, started to confiscate part of the oil as payment in kind.

Juba retaliated by suspending oil production altogether and as of earlier this year the crude stopped flowing through the pipelines putting the two countries in a tight spot economically.

The two countries have been negotiating over several contentious issues besides oil including borders, Abyei, external debts, citizenship, international agreements and water. The African Union (AU) mediation team headed by former South African president Thabo Mbeki has been unable to achieve a breakthrough in any of the outstanding items.

A presidential summit that was supposed to be held earlier this month between Bashir and his southern counterpart Salva Kiir in Juba was called off following the first clash between the armies of the two countries in Heglig last month.

Last week’s occupation of Heglig further complicated any prospects of a resolution to post-independence issues and increased prospects of a return to war between Khartoum and Juba.

Earlier today the Sudanese army announced that it has finally pushed out southern troops out of Heglig after more than a week of anxious waiting by citizens.

The country’s defense minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein said in a televised statement that they inflicted heavy losses on the southern army which amounted to 60% of personnel of their forces and equipments.

Hussein added that they are still pursuing remnants of the “enemies”. He revealed that the reclaiming of Heglig was a result of three major battles that erupted since Thursday.

But South Sudan countered Khartoum’s claim insisting that their troops are still Heglig while ordering them to withdraw.

"The Republic of South Sudan announces that SPLA troops have been ordered to withdraw from Panthou (Heglig)," said South Sudan’s information and media minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin.

"An orderly withdrawal will commence immediately, and shall be completed within three days," he added.

In a televised address to the nation on Friday evening, Kiir said Khartoum was fooling itself by celebrating the imaginary recapture of Heglig, adding that the SPLA will only voluntarily withdraw from the area over the next three days according to the plan laid out by Juba earlier in the day.

Bashir stressed that the war was started by Juba but will stop only if Khartoum wishes to and stressed that it will continue until Blue Nile and South Kordofan are cleansed from “rebels, traitors and agents”.

He again described the ruling South Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) as “insects”.

“We tell the president of insects Salva Kiir, your forces left through force and did not withdraw from Heglig and our men entered it by force and your aggression is continuing in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan and rebels in the two areas [Blue Nile and South Kordofan] are from your forces,” the Sudanese president said.

The pressing question is how much damage occured in Heglig oil facilities which produces half of Sudan’s crude production.

The Sudanese foreign ministry warned that it will seek reparations and compensation from Juba for any harm done in the course of the battles there.

In Khartoum thousands of jubilant citizens took the street to celebrate the news while congratulations poured from all Sudanese living abroad.

Victory of SAF and South Sudan order to withdraw troops from Heglig oil field

April 20, 2012 (JUBA) – South Sudan's President Salva Kiir has ordered the withdrawal of his troops from the Heglig oil field across the border in Sudan..

South Sudanese forces captured the oil field last week, accusing Khartoum of using it as a base to launch attacks.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has said the occupation is illegal and also called on Sudan to stop bombing the South.

The escalating fighting and rhetoric between the two sides over the last week has led to fears of all-out war.

South Sudan seceded last July following a 2005 peace deal which ended a brutal two-decade civil war in which more than 1.5 million people died.

On Thursday, South Sudan issued a statement saying it was not interested in war with its northern neighbour and that it would only withdraw from Heglig if the UN deployed monitors there.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir had earlier threatened to bring down the government in Juba following the loss of Heglig, which provided more than half of Sudan's oil.

'LRA intelligence'

BREAKING NEWS: South Sudan announces immediate withdrawal from Heglig as SAF claims victory

April 20, 2012 (JUBA) – South Sudan said on Friday that it will withdraw troops from oil-producing area of Heglig in three days, Reuters has reported, citing the country’s information and media minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin.

"The Republic of South Sudan announces that SPLA troops have been ordered to withdraw from Panthou (Heglig)," as ordered by President Salva Kiir, Benjamin told reporters in the capital Juba.

According to Reuters, Benjamin told reporters that the withdrawal will be completed within “three days.”

"An orderly withdrawal will commence immediately, and shall be completed within three days," he said.

The sudden development follows reports of heavy fighting on Friday on the outskirts of Heglig between Sudanese forces and the SPLA which has been occupying the area since last week.

Meanwhile, Khartoum has announced that the Sudanese Army (SAF) defeated SPLA troops in the area. The head of the security and defense committee at the Sudanese parliament, Kamal Ubayd, told Al-Jazzera TV on Friday that SAF forces had expelled South Sudanese troops from Heglig and are now controlling the entire area.

More details to follow.

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