* Khartoum accuses Juba of supporting rebels
* Sudan gave S.Sudan until Aug.7 to shut oil output due to
* Juba denies charges
By Aaron Maasho
ADDIS ABABA, July 22 African goverments stepped
up their efforts to prevent a shutdown of oil production in
South Sudan on Monday, agreeing to send three generals to
investigate Sudanese allegations that Juba is supporting
Sudan, the sole conduit for South Sudan's oil exports, said
last month it would close two cross-border oil pipelines within
60 days and insisted output be shut by August 7 unless Juba gave
up its support for the rebels. Juba denies backing them.
The two sides fought one of Africa's longest civil wars
before the south won independence in 2011.
Analysts say South Sudan might collapse without oil, the
main source for the budget apart from foreign grants. They point
to recent looting of aid agencies by soldiers as a sign that
Juba is struggling to pay salaries.
Closing the wells is also bad news for Sudan, which has been
struggling with turmoil since losing most oil reserves with
South Sudan's secession. Oil fees from Juba are essential to
bringing down soaring inflation.
A team of three generals from the African Union and East
African bloc IGAD will travel on Tuesday to Khartoum before
heading to Juba on a six-week mission, said Ramtane Lamamra,
Commissioner of the AU's Peace and Security Council.
"The decision by Sudan to shut down oil exports until and
unless this issue is properly handled...has brought President
Mbeki to propose to the two countries the formation of this
investigation team," Lamamra Told a news conference.
Former South African President Thabo Mbeki is the bloc's
chief mediator for Sudan and South Sudan.
"We hope this mechanism will resolve that longstanding
problem, the allegation by both parties of hosting rebels
against the other," said Ethiopia's Foreign Minister Tedros
Adhanom, current chair of the Horn of Africa grouping IGAD.
Khartoum accuses Juba of supporting the Sudanese
Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebel alliance, which complains of
neglect at the hands of the wealthy Khartoum elites. The SRF in
April staged an attack on central Sudan.
South Sudan in turn accuses Sudan of backing rebels in its
eastern Jonglei state, where fighting is making it impossible to
realise government plans to search for oil with the help of
France's Total and U.S. ExxonMobil.
South Sudan plans to sell 6.4 million barrels of oil worth
$300 million before shutting down its entire production by the
end of July due to the row.
It had only resumed oil production in April, after turning
off wells pumping around 300,000 barrels per day in January 2012
when both sides failed to agree on pipeline fees.
Oil industry insiders say once the pipelines are closed it
will take several months to restart production as they would
have to be flushed of water and cleaned first.