Troops to stay in Abyei for now: Sudan minister

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 06, 2011 1:54 PM
Troops to stay in Abyei for now: Sudan minister

By Stefano Ambrogi

LONDON (Reuters) - Sudan's Foreign Minister Ali Karti said on Monday the army would stay in Abyei, a disputed region in the north-south division of the country next month, until it was stable enough to leave.

Speaking on his first visit to London as foreign minister, he denied reports of atrocities by northern government forces and accused international peacekeepers of losing control of the area.

"Nobody was shot, nobody was chased and the doors are now open for them (villagers) like the doors are open for others (to return)," he told reporters at foreign policy think tank Chatham House.

"I've said it before and I will say it now: this is not lasting, this is not permanent and this is not a solution. This is only transitional," he said of the military takeover.

On Friday, the U.N. Security Council ordered Khartoum to withdraw its forces immediately from Abyei, calling their presence a "serious violation" of north-south peace accords.

There has been no agreement over which country the oil-producing region should belong to when south Sudan becomes independent on July 9. The northern military's seizure on May 21 has sparked fears of a renewed civil war.

The two parts of Sudan ended a decades-long civil war in 2005 and southerners voted for independence in January.

The north's move into Abyei followed an attack the day before on northern troops and U.N. peacekeepers that the U.N. Security Council has said was carried out by southern forces.

South Sudanese sources have said up to 80,000 people fled the region after militia and government troops from the north poured into the area, but Karti said the reports were exaggerated and biased.

"We have never fought or driven anybody from the area ... the army will be there until we have agreed on the permanent arrangements," he said.

"I assure you there have been no atrocities," he said, saying reports of atrocities were "a fiction" whipped up by "colonialists" and the international media.

British Foreign Minister William Hague, who met Karti for talks in London, urged Khartoum to negotiate a peaceful solution quickly.

"I encouraged the foreign minister to accept offers of a third-party peacekeeping force in Abyei so that Sudanese forces can withdraw quickly and those who have been displaced can return to their homes," he said in a statement.

(Editing by Andrew Roche)