South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir on Thursday rejected international calls to pull out troops from the contested oil-producing Heglig area, but said he did not want war with Khartoum.
Kiir, in a speech to parliament, also threatened to send troops into the disputed Abyei oil region — held by Khartoum and patrolled by UN peacekeepers — if Sudan did not withdraw its forces from the area.
“I will not order the forces to withdraw from Heglig,” Kiir told parliament, despite calls by the African Union and United Nations to pull out from the region seized from Khartoum’s army earlier this week.
“I always say we will not take the people of South Sudan back to war, but if we are being aggressed like this we will have to defend ourselves,” he added.
“I am appealing to the citizens of the Republic of Sudan, especially the mothers, not to allow their children to be dragged into a meaningless war.”
Kiir said he had told UN chief Ban Ki-moon in a telephone call Wednesday he would send troops into the Abyei region if the UN did not enforce a withdrawal there by Khartoum’s forces, who seized the area last year.
“I said, I am not under your command,” Kiir said, demanding that Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir be pressured to enforce an agreement to pull his soldiers from Abyei, an area the South says is theirs.
“If you (Ban) are not moving these forces of Bashir out of Abyei, we are going to reconsider our position and we are going to head to Abyei,” Kiir told lawmakers to a standing ovation.
Three days of heavy fighting this week, the worst since South Sudan won independence in July after one of Africa’s longest civil wars, have brought the two former foes the closest to a return to outright war.
Source Daily Monitor