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UN: North, South Sudan Agree on Abyei Troop Pullout

A UNMIS peacekeeper patrol on APC in Abyei, Southern Sudan (File Photo - March 11, 2011)

A UNMIS peacekeeper patrol on APC in Abyei, Southern Sudan (File Photo - March 11, 2011)

The United Nations says north and south Sudan have agreed to withdraw "all unauthorized forces" from the disputed and oil-rich Abyei region beginning on Tuesday.

In a statement released late Sunday, the U.N. Mission in Sudan said there was "good will" in talks between the two sides, and that they signed an agreement to complete the pullout by May 17.

The U.N. and United States say north and south Sudan have each deployed troops to Abyei as the south prepares for independence in July. Both sides claim control of the region, which sits on the north-south border.

Last week, clashes between northern and southern armies in Abyei killed 14 people.

An agreement signed in January called for withdrawal of all forces from Abyei except for joint police and military units trusted with providing security. The U.N. says the north and south have agreed on a plan for deployment of those units.

The U.N. mission says it will meet with the two sides again Thursday to assess the progress of the withdrawal.

South Sudan voted overwhelmingly to split from the north in a January referendum that northern leaders say they will accept. However, the future of oil-producing Abyei has yet to be resolved.

The region was a battleground during Sudan's 21-year north-south civil war, which ended in 2005.

A referendum was scheduled to take place in Abyei in January to decide whether the region would join the north or the south, but the vote failed to happen because the north and south could not agree on who was eligible to vote.