U.N. Security Council concerned by lack of aid access in Sudan

UNITED NATIONS Thu May 31, 2012 11:24pm EDT

1 of 4. A member of the rebel movement Sudan Liberation Army (Abdul Wahid faction) stands guard as people stand in line for the arrival of an African Union - United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) delegation to open a new clinic in Forog, north Darfur May 30, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Albert Gonzalez Farran/UNAMID

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council expressed concern on Thursday over a lack of access for aid to Sudan's border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where fighting has been raging between the Sudanese army and rebels.

Sudan and South Sudan came close to all-out war last month when border fighting escalated in the worst violence since South Sudan's secession in July. Khartoum accuses Juba of supporting rebels in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Juba denies the claim.

The 15-member Security Council was briefed by senior U.N. officials on compliance by the former civil war foes with a May 2 resolution threatening sanctions if they failed to halt the escalating conflict and resume talks on a strong of disputes.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said that while the situation between the two countries appeared to be "in a better place" than before the resolution, they were "seemingly on a hair trigger, so this is still quite a dangerous, quite a precarious situation, along the border."

She told reporters there was dire concern about the grave humanitarian situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

"What we are seeing in terms of those refugees who have made it across the border ... is absolutely alarming. Those are the healthy ones, comparatively, that are able to make it out," she said. "This is indeed an exceedingly worryingly situation."

"There has been no progress in terms of the government of Sudan allowing open humanitarian access, including into rebel areas," Rice said.

Sudan's U.N. ambassador, Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, called on South Sudan to stop supporting rebels in South Kordofan.

This would "enable the government of the Sudan and the international community to channel the relief assistance to the needy people affected by the aggression caused by the rebel forces in South Kordofan," he told reporters.

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Sudan and South Sudan 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.

While the Security Council also welcomed the withdrawal of security forces by both countries from another disputed border territory, Abyei, it said "full withdrawal must include police forces including oil police."

South Sudan has accused its northern neighbor of keeping dozens of troops in the region dressed as police. Sudan seized Abyei a year ago after an attack on a military convoy, blamed by the United Nations on southern forces.

The Security Council welcomed the resumption of talks on Tuesday between Sudan and South Sudan and called on both sides maintain momentum towards meeting their outstanding obligations under the resolution.

Rice said the states had not started discussing the contentious issue of oil revenues.

The Security Council passed the resolution after the African Union sought backing for its demand for Sudan and South Sudan to cease hostilities, withdraw troops from disputed areas and resume talks with the aim of resolving all outstanding disputes.

Osman warned on Thursday that Sudan would continue to fight to defend its territory if necessary.

"South Kordofan and Blue Nile is under the full sovereignty of the Republic of Sudan. (No one) can impose on us anything when we fight people who are destabilizing our peace and security inside our territories," he told reporters.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by David Brunnstrom)

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