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South Sudan orders oil-production halt
Implementation of decision, which comes amid deepening row with Khartoum over pipeline fees, "will not be immediate".
Last Modified: 21 Jan 2012 09:47

Sudan admits to taking some South Sudanese oil destined for export as compensation until an agreement [AFP]

South Sudan has said it ordered the halt of oil production that provides some 98 percent of its revenue, amid a deepening dispute with the Sudanese government over pipeline fees.

Sudan admits to taking some South Sudanese oil destined for export as compensation until an agreement, but the South has said this is theft.

"The government has instructed the minister of petroleum and mining to proceed with arrangements for a complete shutdown of oil production," Barnaba Marial Benjamin, South Sudan's minister of information, told the AFP news agency on Friday.

"The Council of Ministers decided today that in light of the present quantities of oil being taken by Khartoum" it would halt production..

However, Benjamin said shutting down production would not be immediate, and that South Sudanese President Salva Kiir would meet his Sudanese counterpart, Omar al-Bashir, before it was stopped.

"It [production] is not just closed like a door key ... it cannot be less than seven days," he said.

"The council has also agreed that President Kiir will meet Omar al-Bashir at the African Union in Addis Ababa on January 27."

In Khartoum, Sudan's foreign ministry reacted by saying its neighbour has the right "to do what they want with their oil", but South Sudan will suffer more than the north from a disruption of the oil flow.

Tit-for-tat accusations

The South split from Sudan in July, taking with it 75 per cent of the country's oil production of 470,000 barrels per day. However, despite its oil wealth the new state of South Sudan lacks the infrastructure to refine and export oil.

Crucial facilities including the pipeline and Red Sea export terminal remain in Sudan, leaving the two states arguing over how much the south should pay to use the infrastructure.

The former civil war enemies - now regional neighbours - have exchanged repeated tit-for-tat accusations in a bitter spat during dragging oil negotiations, raising tensions between the two sides.

Sudanese authorities recently stopped two ships loaded with 650,000 barrels of South Sudanese oil from leaving the export terminal because they did not pay the port fees, according to Sudan's foreign ministry.

Oil companies in South Sudan include Nile Petroleum Corporation, wholly owned by the government of South Sudan; Petrodar Operating Company, which is owned mainly by China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC); Petronas of Malaysia; Sudapet of Sudan; and SINOPEC of China.

China, which relies on South Sudan for nearly five per cent of its oil and is also a crucial ally of the Sudanese government, is supporting negotiations between the two sides in the Ethiopian capital.

In November, Sudanese officials announced the country will take 23 per cent of the South's vital oil exports as payment in kind.

Source:
Agencies
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