By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States said on Thursday it has drafted a U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at making legally binding an African Union demand that Sudan and South Sudan stop border clashes, resume talks and resolve their many disputes.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters the Security Council would begin discussing the draft resolution later on Thursday and that it would likely need at least a few days of talks among members before going to a vote.
The AU's Peace and Security Council on Tuesday urged both sides to cease hostilities within 48 hours, an "unconditional" withdrawal of troops from disputed areas, and warned it would issue its own binding rulings if they fail to strike deals on a string of disputes within three months.
"The intention of the text was to provide swift and substantive support to the decisions of the African Union in the form that the African Union requested," said Rice, president of the 15 nation Security Council for April, told reporters.
The AU asked for a U.N. Security Council "Chapter 7" endorsement of its plan. A Chapter 7 resolution by the council would be legally binding on both Sudan and South Sudan
"There were some members who either need more time to get guidance from their capitals or who are skeptical of the wisdom of going directly to a resolution," Rice said. "This is extremely urgent."
Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter allows the Security Council to authorize actions ranging from diplomatic and economic sanctions to military intervention to enforce its decisions. The United Nations has thousands of peacekeepers in the two Sudans.
Clashes along the ill-defined border between the former civil-war foes has led to a standoff over the Heglig oil field after it was seized earlier this month by troops from South Sudan, which declared independence last year.
The Security Council last week discussed possibly imposing sanctions on Sudan and South Sudan if the violence did not stop.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir said hostilities this week - after South Sudan had said it would withdraw from Heglig - amounted to a declaration of a war by his northern neighbor.
Distrust runs deep between the neighbors who are at loggerheads over the position of their border, how much the landlocked south should pay to transport its oil through Sudan, and the division of national debt, among other issues.
Both are poor countries - South Sudan is one of the poorest in the world - and the dispute between them has already halted nearly all the oil production that underpins both economies.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Vicki Allen)