* Sudan rows back from saying joint force under discussion
* South Sudan is battling armed rebellion
KHARTOUM Jan 7 Sudan backed away on Tuesday
from comments that South Sudan had requested talks on the
deployment of a joint force to protect its oil-producing
The comments had come after talks in South Sudan's capital
Juba on Monday between Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir
and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir.
South Sudan, the world's youngest country which split from
Sudan in 2011, is battling an armed rebellion by forces loyal to
former vice president Riek Machar.
Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti said after Bashir's
return to Khartoum on Monday that the two neighbours had
discussed "the deployment of joint forces to secure oil areas in
South Sudan". Juba had proposed the idea, he said.
But the foreign ministry in Khartoum issued a statement on
Tuesday denying media reports saying that the matter had been
discussed, according to the official Sudanese news agency SUNA.
It added that, based on a request from the Juba government,
Sudan would prepare a mission of 900 technicians ready to go to
work in South Sudan's oil fields in case their help is needed.
South Sudanese government and rebel representatives were
meeting in neighbouring Ethiopia on Tuesday to try to negotiate
an end to weeks of fighting that has killed at least 1,000
people and driven 200,000 from their homes.
South Sudan broke away from Sudan in 2011 after a referendum
that ended two decades of civil war between the north and south.
The prospect of security cooperation between the two
countries would represent an improvement in ties, after they
came close to conflict again in disputes over oil fees and the
border in the early part of 2012.
Landlocked South Sudan pays fees to Sudan to pipe its crude
oil to Port Sudan on the Red Sea, making the oil an important
source of income for both states.
The Khartoum foreign ministry reported that Bashir had said
South Sudan could benefit from Sudan's experience in securing
its borders with Chad, Ethipoia and Eritrea using joint patrols.
Similar patrols could be used to guard the border between
Sudan and South Sudan "at a later date and after the end of the
current, exceptional circumstances", it said.
(Writing by Tom Perry in Cairo; Editing by Gareth Jones)