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Fierce Clashes Erupt Along Sudan-South Sudan Border

Fierce clashes erupted between the Armies of Sudan and South Sudan along their disputed border on Monday, making the biggest confrontation between the two sides after South Sudan seceded from Sudan last July.

Sudan's Army spokesman Sawarmi Khalid Saad confirmed that clashes had broken out along the border with South Sudan in South Kordofan state as well as the southern Unity state. Without providing further details, he said the clashes "are still ongoing."

Meanwhile, Sudan's state radio reported that President Omar al-Bashir had put off his planned visit to the South in the wake of the border clashes. Bashir was earlier scheduled to hold a summit with his Southern counterpart Salva Kiir in South Sudan next week.

Separately, Kiir warned that the latest border clashes might escalate into a full-fledged war. He added that his country's security forces have taken control of the disputed Heglig oil field claimed by both nations.

"This morning the [Sudanese] Air Force came and bombed... areas in Unity state. After this intensive bombardment our forces.... were attacked by the [Sudan Armed Forces] and militia. It is a war that has been imposed on us again, but it is [Sudan] who are looking for it," Kiir said.

In addition to the clashes in Unity state, South Sudanese claimed on condition of anonymity that the disputed areas of Jau and Pan Akuach, as well as Teshwin inside South Sudan, were attacked by Sudanese forces.

The latest developments come just over a year after voters in South Sudan voted overwhelmingly in favor of separation from the North in a referendum held in January 2011. The referendum was in line with a 2005 peace agreement that ended 22 years of civil war between the Arab North and the Christian and animist South.

Despite the many unresolved issues linked to citizenship and splitting up of natural resources with the North, South Sudan became the world's newest independent nation on July 9. The border region between the two nations still witnesses frequent clashes between several former southern rebel groups and forces loyal to the North Sudanese government in Khartoum.

At the time of declaring independence, South Sudan gained control of nearly 75 percent of Sudan's oil production totaling around 500,000 barrels a day. China is the leading destination for Sudanese oil exports.

South Sudanese oil reaches its overseas destinations after transiting through pipelines in North Sudan. The two nations are yet to resolve a dispute over transit fees for oil. Both South Sudan and Sudan are heavily dependent on oil revenues.

South Sudan alleges that Sudan is seizing its oil, meant for export, during transit through its territory to a northern port. Sudan proposed a transit fee of $36 a barrel, while South Sudan is offering about $1 a barrel. The country has reportedly accused Sudan of stealing $815 million of its oil.

by RTT Staff Writer

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