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Sudan Resumes Air Strikes in Southern Kordofan, UN Says

Sudanese fighter jets dropped 11 bombs on the northern oil-producing state of Southern Kordofan as government forces attacked units of Southern Sudan’s army, drawing condemnation from the United States.

The bombings occurred at about 10:30 a.m. local time, UN spokesman Kouider Zerrouk said today by phone from Khartoum, the capital. The bombings were in the mountains surrounding Kadugli, the state capital, and they appeared to target an airfield in the town of Kauda, Zerrouk said.

Clashes along the border have raised concern about a resumption of the two-decade civil war in sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest oil producer that ended with a 2005 peace agreement between the north and the south. The violence has displaced more than 53,000 people, according to the UN.

The Sudanese government will continue to bomb areas in the state where a rebellion is under way by members of Southern Sudan’s armed forces, army spokesman Al-Sawarmi Khaled said today by phone from Khartoum.

“The army is taking military actions to try to quell the recent rebellion,” Khaled said. “These military operations will continue until we completely end this rebellion.”

‘Normalization’ Threatened

The U.S. “deplores” the violence and will take diplomatic action if it doesn’t stop, said U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner in a briefing today. “If Sudan doesn’t stand down, the U.S. will not move further on the road map to normalization,” Toner said in Washington.

The U.S. is “willing to work with the Sudanese government, reopen their case as a state sponsor of terror and other measures that we believe would end Sudan’s isolation,” Toner said. “But it’s incumbent on the government of Sudan to end these types of escalations.”

Southern Kordofan borders the oil-rich states of Unity and Upper Nile in Southern Sudan, which will assume control of about 75 percent of Sudan’s daily oil production of 490,000 barrels of oil when it becomes independent next month. The crude is pumped mainly by China National Petroleum Corp., Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd and India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp.

Oil Production

The state accounts for about 115,000 barrels per day, according to Sudan’s minister of state for oil, Ali Ahmed Osman.

Both forces in the state should “immediately allow access to the humanitarian agencies, stop indiscriminate military attacks against civilians, and respect and protect them in accordance with international law,” Zerrouk said.

The bombings resumed a day after President Umar al-Bashir returned from talks on the disputed border region of Abyei in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he met with his southern counterpart, Salva Kiir, and officials from the African Union. The Sudanese army occupied Abyei on May 21 after the government said it was attacked by Southern Sudan’s forces.

Sudanese state TV station today contradicted statements yesterday by an African Union spokesman that al-Bashir had agreed in principle to withdraw his army’s troops from Abyei before Southern Sudan’s independence on July 9. The two sides also agreed to allow Ethiopian peacekeepers to deploy in the region, according to the African Union spokesman, Barney Afako.

Withdrawal Is ‘Critical’

“Their immediate withdrawal is critical if there is to be any chance for a sustainable solution in the troubled territory itself, but also to prevent Africa’s largest country from plunging back into war and spoiling South Sudan’s long awaited independence -- now just one month away,” the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said yesterday in a statement.

The clashes in Southern Kordofan, which began on June 5, may have broken out when northern forces tried to disarm members of the Nuba ethnic group who fought on the side of Southern Sudan in the civil war, according to the south’s army spokesman, Philip Aguer. The fighting doesn’t involve the Southern Sudanese army based in the regional capital, Juba, he said on June 5.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has accused Sudanese government forces of “widespread abuses” in Southern Kordofan, saying in a July 10 statement that witnesses reported house-to-house searches and executions.

The forces were targeting civilians suspected of being members of Southern Sudan’s ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, the rights group said.

The Sudanese army today rejected the accusations.

“We don’t chase civilians,” Khaled said. “We are only fighting the rebels.”

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