Sudan parly brands Juba govt 'enemy'

2012-04-17 12:49
Khartoum - Sudan's parliament has branded the government of South Sudan an enemy after southern troops invaded the north's main oilfield, as the United States condemned the bombing of a UN base in the south.

The unanimous parliamentary vote on Monday came as South Sudan in turn accused Khartoum of fresh airstrikes that killed 10 civilians and also hit a United Nations peacekeeping camp.

Sudan denied having any links to the bombing of the UN compound, an attack condemned by the United States on the seventh day of the most severe border fighting since South Sudan separated last July.

"Sudan's army didn't have any link with what's going on in Unity state in South Sudan," army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad was quoted as saying by the official SUNA news agency.

"The army is defending its land after aggression from South Sudanese troops and doesn't take any responsibility for what's going on outside Sudanese territory."

The UN mission spokesperson Kouider Zerrouk confirmed the attack on the peacekeepers' camp but said there were no casualties and it was unlikely the UN was targeted, as the Antonov aircraft used by Sudan are notoriously inaccurate.

"We strongly condemn the bombing by the Sudan armed forces of the UN mission in South Sudan," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters in Washington.

The State Department earlier condemned US-allied South Sudan for seizing Sudan's oil hub of Heglig.

Grim humanitarian situation


After the Sudanese parliamentary vote, speaker Ahmed Ibrahim El-Tahir called in the legislature for the overthrow of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) which rules the South.

"We announce that we will clash with SPLM until we end her government of South Sudan," he said.

Fighting broke out last month between the rival armies of Khartoum and Juba around Sudan's main oilfield, called Heglig.

The clashes escalated last week with waves of aerial bombardment hitting the South, whose troops on Tuesday seized Heglig from Khartoum's army.

Although South Sudan disputes that Heglig belongs to Sudan, the area is not among the roughly 20% of the border officially contested.

In the Southern capital Juba, Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said the vote by Sudan's parliament was "unfortunate".

"We have never been their enemy - our position is that we don't consider them as our enemy," he told reporters.

Meanwhile aid workers said the fighting is worsening an already grim humanitarian situation.

In South Sudan's Yida refugee camp - one of several along the border – about 400 refugees are arriving every day, up from an average of 50 a day last week, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) aid agency said.

Those refugees are fleeing civil war and hunger in the Nuba mountains of Sudan's South Kordofan state, an area close to where Sudan and South Sudan have been fighting.

Escalating violence

In South Kordofan, Sudan has for months been battling ethnic insurgents formerly allied with the rebels now ruling in South Sudan.

Nineteen South Sudanese soldiers have been killed since Tuesday, while 240 Sudanese troops have lost their lives, Juba's army said in figures impossible to verify.

"It's a war," a foreign diplomat said, but there is a logistical imbalance between the combatants since South Sudan has no warplanes, meaning "they are obliged to respond on the ground."

Questions are being raised in Khartoum over how easily Southern forces managed to seize Sudan's main oilfield, worsening an economy mired in crisis.

The Sudanese military is already severely stretched, in the face of the major insurgency in South Kordofan, a smaller uprising in Blue Nile, and ongoing fighting in the war-ravaged Darfur region.

China said on Monday that South Sudan's President Salva Kiir will visit from April 23 to 28 for talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Beijing is an ally of the Sudanese government and the largest buyer of South Sudan's oil. Last week it called on both sides to enact a ceasefire and return to the diplomacy table.

Other world powers have also called for restraint and voiced deep concern at the escalating violence.

Khartoum seeks the South's unconditional withdrawal from Heglig.

But Juba has said it will not pull back unless Khartoum removes its troops from the contested Abyei region nearby, among other conditions.

Read more on:    un  |  salva kiir  |  hu jintao  |  sudan  |  south sudan  |  east africa
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