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Tensions Erupt at Sudan, South Sudan Talks

A picture taken on March 3, 2012 shows environmental damage caused by bombs which hit El Nar oil field in Unity State, South Sudan on February 29.
A picture taken on March 3, 2012 shows environmental damage caused by bombs which hit El Nar oil field in Unity State, South Sudan on February 29.

A shouting match broke out during talks between Sudan and South Sudan were marred late Tuesday, not long after the U.N. demanded the countries take steps to avoid war.

According to a participant, tensions erupted over the wording of a draft agreement over citizenship issues. Negotiations are scheduled to continue Wednesday.

Earlier, the U.N. Security Council demanded that Sudan and South Sudan take steps to reduce hostility amid bitter disputes involving oil, and accusations that each side supports the other's rebel groups.

Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant of Britain, which holds the rotating Council presidency, said Tuesday the Council is gravely concerned about reports of troop movements and airstrikes along the border.

He urged the countries to respect a non-aggression pact they signed less than a month ago. "The Security Council demands that all parties cease military operations in the border areas and put an end to the cycle of violence," said the ambassador.

The Council also demanded that Sudan and South Sudan "take no action that would undermine the security and stability of the other."

The statement came as Sudan and South Sudan began the scheduled 10 days of talks in Addis Ababa.  The African Union is trying to mediate disputes centered on oil revenue sharing, the undemarcated border, and citizenship questions raised by South Sudan's independence in July.

The south took over most Sudanese oil production but is refusing to pay what it considers excessive transit fees to use northern pipelines.  The landlocked south needs the pipelines to send the oil to international markets.

The dispute prompted South Sudan to shut down all oil production, a move analysts say is likely to hurt both countries financially.

The sides are also in disagreement over borders of the oil-producing Abyei region, and the status of southerners living in the north.

A previous round of talks last month yielded no progress, except for the non-aggression pact.

When Sudan was a unified country, the north and south fought a bloody 21-year civil war.

CORRETION: VOA erroneously reported that talks had broken down between the two sides on Tuesday. We regret the error.

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