Sudan's Bashir halts south Sudan oil flow

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Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Saturday ordered a halt to the flow of oil from South Sudan, official media reported, after he warned the South over backing rebels who analysts say have humiliated the authorities.

“Bashir ordered the minister of oil to stop the flow of South Sudanese oil from tomorrow, Sunday,” Radio Omdurman reported in an SMS message.

The state SUNA news agency issued a similar report, saying oil companies are to be informed about “shutting down the pipeline” from Sunday.

Khartoum will not allow export revenue from South Sudanese oil “to be used in support of rebels against Sudan,” the president said at a ceremony to provide electricity to some villages in rural Khartoum state.

Bashir added that his country does not care whether the South sends its crude elsewhere, a reference to Juba's talk of sending its oil through Kenya and other countries as an alternative.

Oil has been slowly moving towards Sudan's Red Sea export terminal since re-entering Sudanese territory from southern wells about two months ago.

Bashir warned on May 27 that he would block the oil if the South's government provides assistance to rebels fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, or in the Darfur region.

Juba denies supporting the insurgents.

Bashir's late-May threat came at a ceremony following the army's recapture of Abu Kershola in the far north of South Kordofan.

Rebels held Abu Kershola and its garrison for a month after seizing it during a coordinated attack on several areas including the strategic and previously peaceful town of Umm Rawaba in North Kordofan.

Analysts called the initial attack a humiliation for the authorities.

More recently there were very strong rumors that the “liberation” of Abu Kershola only resulted from a withdrawal by rebels of the Sudan Revolutionary Front coalition, one Sudan analyst told AFP.

“They're a little bit worried that, militarily, they're on the losing side,” said the analyst, who was referring to the army and asked for anonymity.

The government severely restricts access to South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, where rebels have been fighting for two years.

“The problem is that nobody has seen any evidence” of continued South Sudanese support to the insurgents, the analyst said.

“They (Sudan) have their own internal difficulties and they want to use South Sudan as a scapegoat,” South Sudanese Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told AFP.

His country held a ceremony in early April to restart oil production following a closure of more than a year after accusing Khartoum of theft in a row over export fees.

South Sudan split from Sudan in July 2011 in the wake of a referendum vote for independence under a peace deal that ended a 22-year civil war.

Independence left key issues unresolved, including how much the South should pay for shipping its oil through Sudan's export infrastructure.

Rising tensions led to intermittent border clashes.

Last September the two nations agreed to resume oil exports and implement eight other agreements but they did not take effect as Khartoum pushed for guarantees that South Sudan would no longer back the rebels.

In March, Juba and Khartoum finally agreed on detailed timetables to set all the deals in motion.

Among them is the establishment of a demilitarized buffer zone along the undemarcated and disputed frontier between the two nations.

The buffer zone aims to cut cross-border rebel infiltration.

South Sudan has also accused Khartoum of backing insurgents on its territory.

Both impoverished countries would gain billions of dollars in revenue if oil exports resumed.

“The decision to block the pipeline to South Sudanese oil came after deep study of all the expected impact,” Bashir said, calling on his nation's youth to report to military camps.

The South's Information Minister, Benjamin, said Juba had not received official notification of the order to cut the oil.

“But as we know, so many agreements have been dishonored in the past,” he said, adding that Juba remained committed to all the deals.

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