(Updates with Sudan army spokesman starting in fourth paragraph.)
June 16 (Bloomberg) -- The United Nations urged Sudan to open the airspace in Southern Kordofan state where fighting between government troops and units of Southern Sudan’s army has displaced more than 60,000 people in the past 11 days.
The closure in the border state “is dangerously hampering” the aid effort for thousands of displaced people “in urgent need of emergency assistance,” UN spokesman Kouider Zerrouk said today by phone from Khartoum, Sudan’s capital.
Clashes along the north-south 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. Government forces have carried out air strikes in the past two weeks, including in the mountainous areas around the state capital, Kadugli, the UN said.
President Umar al-Bashir’s army 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 told reporters today in Khartoum.
“Military operations are continuing until this moment,” Khaled said. “The operations will continue until we completely end this rebellion.”
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 next month. 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.
The clashes 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.
Al-Bashir asked the authorities in the south to disarm more than 40,000 troops in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states that are in their army, Deng Alor Kuol, the Southern Sudan minister of regional cooperation, told reporters yesterday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
“We told him there’s no way we can disarm more than 40,000; The best thing is for you to integrate them into your army and the security organs,” Kuol said. “He said ‘no, send them to me without arms’.”
--With assistance from William Davison in Addis Ababa. Editors: Karl Maier, Emily Bowers.
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