Sudan tells south not to back border state "rebellion"

* South Sudan heading to independence in less than a month

* Southern army says Khartoum moving troops to Blue Nile

12 June, 2011 (Reuters)

North Sudan's ruling party warned the south on Sunday against supporting a "rebellion" in the Southern Kordofan border state, saying such a move could affect recognition of the south when it secedes.

South Sudan is less than a month away from breaking off into an independent country, but bloodshed around the country's ill-defined north-south border has raised fears the two sides could return to open conflict.

The northern army has been fighting southern-aligned groups in the northern oil state of Southern Kordofan for over a week. The United Nations estimates tens of thousands have fled, and humanitarian organisations fear a mounting death toll although few casualties have been confirmed.

"If the southern government ... continues to disrupt stability in the north, it will greatly affect the issue of recognising the nascent southern state and efforts to maintain good cooperative relations between the two nations," the state news agency SUNA said, citing northern official Haj Majid Suwar.

SUNA described the fighting as a rebellion in the state.

A southern military spokesman denied suggestions Juba was supporting fighters in Southern Kordofan, saying they were no longer part of its army although they are referred to as members of the south's Sudan Peoples' Liberation Army (SPLA).

"There is no link between southern Sudan and the rebels in Southern Kordofan. These people look after their own affairs. We have the same name, that is it," spokesman Philip Aguer said.

Both sides have traded accusations over who started the fighting. Officials with the south's dominant party, the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement (SPLM), have said it began when northern forces tried to disarm anti-government troops there.

Northern officials have said the armed groups provoked the clashes.

A separate SUNA statement said SPLA members killed six people and wounded 11 when they attacked a car near the Southern Kordofan town of Dilling. It did not give a source.

Southern-aligned fighters also attacked a convoy carrying Southern Kordofan's governor Ahmed Haroun as he headed from the airport to the state capital Kadugli within the last few days, northern military spokesman Al-Sawarmi Khaled said.

Analysts say a protracted and bloody conflict could continue long after secession in Southern Kordofan because it is home to thousands of fighters -- largely from the Nuba mountains region -- who sided with the south during the last civil war.

There have also been fears similar fighting could erupt in the northern Blue Nile state, where Aguer said Khartoum was moving troops.

"Forces going to Blue Nile left from Khartoum yesterday. If they are not careful the same thing happening in Southern Kordofan will happen in Blue Nile," he said.

Northern army spokesman Khaled said any problems in Blue Nile would be solved diplomatically and Khartoum is free to move troops into Blue Nile because it is a northern state.

"I can assure that we are not preparing for a war in Blue Nile," he said.

Tensions mounted in Southern Kordofan after Haroun, a member of the northern ruling National Congress Party, was named winner of a gubernatorial election last month. The south said the vote was rigged, which the north denied.

In an earlier statement, Khaled denied any military aircraft had been shot down in Southern Kordofan, after an official from the Southern Kordofan branch of the SPLM said fighters downed two northern warplanes.

South Sudan opted to secede in a January vote which had been promised by a 2005 north-south peace deal. The two sides warred for decades over oil, religion, ethnicity and ideology.

North and south have yet to agree on sensitive issues including the status of the disputed Abyei region, and how to divide oil revenues and the national debt.


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