Sudan will not bomb South: foreign ministry

Sudan will not bomb South Sudanese territory and does not seek war with its neighbour, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday, as the South alleged new air strikes but both sides vowed to step back from all-out conflict.

"We are not going to make any sort of shelling or any sort of bombing in South Sudanese territory," ministry spokesman Al-Obeid Meruh told AFP.

"We are not for the war now and we are not going to widen the war area," he said, adding Sudan was only on the "defensive."

Gideon Gatpan, information minister for the South's Unity state, said there was bombing by Sudan overnight in Panakwach, 35 kilometres (22 miles) from Bentiu, state capital of the oil-rich area.

The South alleged Sudan began bombing its territory on Monday, followed by a ground incursion, but Khartoum said Southern troops had pushed into Sudan before being repulsed.

Meruh said the army cleared all Sudanese territory of Southern troops by about 8:00 pm Tuesday (1700 GMT) and if any shelling had occurred it was related to those final clashes.

"We blame them for initiating the war in this area," Meruh said, adding Sudan's position was that oil-producing regions on either side of the border were "supposed to be outside of the war zone."

Gatpan, the southern official, said fighting on the ground had ceased.

Senior envoys from both nations are to meet Thursday in the Ethiopian capital to avert all-out war.

Idris Mohammed Abdel Kader, Sudan's chief negotiator in talks with the South, told parliament that negotiation goes hand-in-hand with defence of the nation.

"We will continue in our efforts for peace and to stop the aggression between the two countries, to build good neighbourly relations for mutual benefit and the security of the whole region," he said.

El Shafie Mohammed El Makki, head of political science at the University of Khartoum, said both nations, beset by economic and other problems, have too much at stake not to resolve their differences.

"I don't think that the two countries are keen to go to war," he told AFP. "I think they will go and very quickly try to normalise".

El Shafie said he even expected Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to still meet his southern counterpart Salva Kiir, although Khartoum suspended a planned April 3 summit between the two after Monday's fighting.

by Sebastien Berger © 2012 AFP

Source: AFP
Date: Mar 28, 2012