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Sudan army misses deadline to move troops under deal

By Staff
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Google Oneindia News

JUBA, Sudan, July 9 (Reuters) Sudan's northern army has missed a deadline to move its troops to the north under a peace deal and are still paying illegal militias based in the south, the United Nations said.

A January 2005 north-south peace deal, which ended Africa's longest war, created a southern autonomous government and two separate armies with joint units in key towns and oil areas.

A UN statement, signed by both the northern Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), said 66.5 per cent of the original 46,403 northern troops in south Sudan had moved north. The agreement called for a full redeployment by July 9.

While Monday's deadline was missed peacefully, concerns over future violence caused by the continued presence of militias and troops in Sudan's oil fields remain.

The head of the UN mission in south Sudan, Peter Schumann, told Reuters most of the remaining SAF troops were in the areas that produce Sudan's vital 500,000 barrels per day of crude oil.

''The higher concentration of the remaining SAF is in ... the oil producing area,'' said Schumann.

Sudan's two largest oil fields are in the land-locked south.

But the refineries and pipelines are in the north. Oil, along with ethnicity, religion and ideology complicated the civil war.

Under the deal, only the joint units should police the oil areas.

Schumann added other north-aligned forces were still in southern oil fields.

On the SPLA side, the United Nations said it had not withdrawn troops from the central areas of Southern Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains.

The deal said the joint units should take over, but these combined north-south units are not yet functioning.

Last year the SPLA also missed a deadline to withdraw from their positions in Sudan's east, sparking a standoff as northern armed forces stormed in stopping just a few yards from SPLA barracks and demanding their immediate withdrawal.

The armies are at odds over the continued illegal presence of northern-aligned militias in south Sudan. Under the deal all other armed groups (OAGs) had to join either army or choose to disarm.

''SAF declares that they have integrated or disarmed all formerly aligned OAGs, however the same has been contested by SPLA,'' the UN statement said.

Schumann said the SAF were still paying for militias in the south, which are not formally part of the army.

''They continue to receive payments from SAF so the question is to what extent they remain part of SAF or not,'' he said.

Last year 150 people were killed during clashes between the north and south armies in the southern town of Malakal, fighting sparked by northern-aligned militias.

REUTERS SV RN1657

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