By Aaron Maasho
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Sudan has postponed the shutdown of pipelines carrying oil from South Sudan to allow time for investigating claims that both sides support rebels in one another's territories, Ethiopia's Foreign Affairs ministry said.
Sudan, the sole conduit for South Sudan's oil exports, said earlier this month it would close two cross-border oil pipelines within two months and insisted that South Sudan shut oil production by August 7 unless it gave up support for rebels operating across their border.
"The government of Sudan has agreed to postpone for at least two weeks the deadline by which it will shut down the pipelines carrying oil from landlocked South Sudan for export through Port Sudan," the Ethiopian foreign ministry said on Friday.
The African Union and regional bloc IGAD 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 travelled 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; Editing by George Obulutsa and Jane Baird)