By Aaron Maasho and Khalid Abdelaziz
ADDIS ABABA/KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan has postponed the shutdown of pipelines carrying oil from South Sudan for two weeks to allow more time to end a row over alleged rebel support, an official said on Friday in a last-minute effort to keep vital crude exports flowing.
Sudan, the sole conduit for South Sudan's oil exports, said last month it would close two cross-border oil pipelines by Aug 7 unless Juba gave up support for rebels operating across their border. South Sudan denies the claims.
"Sudan has agreed to postpone for two week the deadline at the request of (African Union mediator Thabo) Mbeki," Rahmatullah Osman, undersecretary in the foreign ministry, told Reuters. The AU had asked for the extension to have more time to investigate complaints about rebel support, he said.
Ethiopia, which is mediating between the former civil war foes with the AU, had initially announced the postponement. Mbeki had met Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Thursday.
The African Union has stepped up efforts earlier this week to prevent the production shutdown by naming three generals to investigate Sudanese allegations that South Sudan is supporting anti-Khartoum rebels.
South Sudan has denied the claim and accuses Sudan of backing rebels in its Jonglei state.
The generals traveled to Khartoum on Tuesday and are set to visit Juba soon as part of a six-week mission.
South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan in 2011, depends on oil exports for its government budget, and diplomats worry that a shutdown could undermine its stability.
Closure of the pipelines would also hit the economy of Sudan, which needs South Sudan's payment of oil transit fees.
Ethiopia had hosted previous two-year talks between the two foes, which culminated in the signing of deals in September to restart oil exports and demarcate their border.
(Reporting by Aaron Maasho in Addis Ababa and Khalid Abdelaziz in Khartoum; Editing by George Obulutsa, Ulf Laessing)
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