U.N. council mulls Sudan, South Sudan sanctions to end clashes

UNITED NATIONS Tue Apr 17, 2012 3:23pm EDT

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council discussed on Tuesday possibly imposing sanctions on Sudan and South Sudan if the African neighbors did not stop border clashes that were threatening to spiral into full-scale war, said the U.S. envoy to the United Nations.

Fighting 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 a week ago by troops from South Sudan, which declared independence last year.

The 15-nation Security Council reiterated its call for a "complete, immediate, unconditional" end to all fighting and for Sudan to stop air strikes and South Sudan to withdraw troops from the vital oil field.

"Council members discussed ways to leverage the influence of the council to press the parties to take these steps, and included in that a discussion potentially of sanctions," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters.

Rice, who is the Security Council president for April, gave no further details on possible sanctions that could be imposed.

"Members expressed grave concern over the situation and committed to make every effort to convince the parties to cease hostilities and return to the negotiating table," she said.

South Sudan's envoy in New York expressed the hope that diplomacy could help prevent a war but warned that her country would not give up its territory.

"We believe that the current crisis can be resolved through negotiated and agreed upon solutions," South Sudan's U.N. envoy Agnes Oswaha told reporters.

"We are not going to go for the offense because we are for peace," she said. "However, we will stand on the defense and defend our territory."

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.

South Sudan has accused Sudan of launching air strikes on some of its major oilfields. Sudan has denied launching air strikes but said its ground forces had attacked southern artillery positions that had fired on the north.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July, six months after a referendum agreed under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war that killed more than 2 million people.

(Editing by Eric Beech)

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