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Sudan Quits Peace Talks on Southern Kordofan, Bashir Says

Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir quit talks in Ethiopia to end clashes in the northern oil-producing state of Southern Kordofan, two days before South Sudan becomes independent.

”There will be no more negotiations outside Sudan,” Al-Bashir told a rally today in White Nile state in a speech televised live on the state Sudan TV station.

Clashes between Sudanese government forces and troops loyal to Southern Sudan’s army in Southern Kordofan have forced more than 73,000 people to flee their homes since June 5, according to the United Nations. The fighting there and in the disputed border region of Abyei raised concern about the possible resumption of a two-decade civil war that ended in 2005.

Southern Kordofan remains “tense” and “volatile,” the UN said today. Heavy gunfire and aerial bombardments took place around the state capital, Kadugli, each day from June 30 to July 5, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in an e-mailed report. It also said helicopter gunships “engaged in offensive air operations” west of Kadugli on July 4.

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki traveled to Sudan yesterday from Ethiopia, where he was mediating negotiations on Southern Kordofan, state-run SUNA news agency reported. Mbeki held talks with al-Bashir, SUNA said, without giving details.

Mbeki Failed

Mbeki, the head of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel on Sudan, said negotiators had reached a “framework agreement” on June 28 to end the violence in Southern Kordofan.

“Unfortunately, President Mbeki failed in his mission with President Bashir,” Yasser Arman, the secretary-general of the northern branch of Southern Sudan’s ruling party, told reporters today in Addis Ababa. “President Bashir wants to continue a new war in the north and it’s known there are a lot of atrocities, especially in Southern Kordofan and there is an ethnic cleansing.”

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 when it becomes independent. The crude is pumped mainly by China National Petroleum Corp., Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd and India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp.

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

Civil War Legacy

The Sudanese government had said northern fighters from Southern Kordofan state, who were allied with the south in the civil war, must be integrated into the army.

The Sudanese army will continue its military operations against what it describes as ”rebels” in Southern Kordofan, as ”no cease-fire agreement has been signed yet,” Sudanese army spokesman Al-Sawarmi Khaled said by phone yesterday.

The U.S. is “concerned that President Bashir has raised objections to the political and security framework agreement,” the State Department said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. It urged the government to work with the African Union panel “to overcome any objections so the vitally important discussions called for in that agreement can proceed.”

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