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Sudan Ruling Party Official Insists Abyei Region Belongs to the North

Armed men walk past on April 17, 2011 as resentment towards the capital Khartoum runs high in the restive town of Abyei, on the Sudanese north-south border, which suffers from chronic underdevelopment despite its strategic importance and the area's rich n

A prominent member of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party [NCP] says northern soldiers took over the disputed oil-rich region to ensure peace, stability and improved security.

Rabie Abdelati Obeid insists Abyei remains part of the north until a future referendum is held to determine its fate.

“The [northern] government,” he added, “is responsible for all [the] people of the region. [It] is ready to implement the protocol of Abyei and ready also to implement the outstanding points left from the CPA [Comprehensive Peace Agreement],” said Obeid.

Amin Hassan Omar, a minister of state for presidential affairs, told a news conference Sunday that northern forces are clearing Abyei of southern army troops.

Philip Aguer, spokesman for the south's army, said the military was waiting to hear from officials of the southern government about how to respond.

Fighting erupted in the region Thursday, when a northern army convoy accompanied by U.N. peacekeepers came under attack. Obeid used the incident to justify the move by Khartoum to take control of the region.

The White House accused southern Sudanese forces of attacking the convoy and deplored the incident. But it has also condemned the Sudanese government's seizure of Abyei.

Some observers say the move by the government to put the area under its control could lead to a new civil war with south Sudan as that region prepares for independence on July 9.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has warned his government would not recognize south Sudan as an independent state it it did not give up claims to Abyei.

But, Obeid denies ongoing negotiations between his party and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement [SPLM] will be at risk.

“This will not contradict that within this period [leading] up to the results of the referendum,” said Obeid. “Abyei is a part of the north till we reach a resolution in the joint technical community formed between the two partners.”

A U.N. Security Council delegation is in Khartoum Sunday for talks on the Abyei issue.