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Sudan to keep police in disputed Abyei region
Admission comes after foreign ministry denied security presence in the region and UN called for Sudan's withdrawal.
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2012 00:22
Ban Ki-moon called for a full withdrawal of Sudanese forces to end the conflict in Abyei that has created a refugee crisis. [Refugees]

Sudan will keep police forces in the disputed Abyei region bordering South Sudan for now, the state news agency said, defying a call by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to withdraw.

A police force of 169 people "remained inside Abyei... armed with ordinary weapons", the official SUNA news agency quoted army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad as saying on Thursday.

Saad told SUNA that the armed policemen would stay until a planned Abyei police force staffed by both countries had been formed.

He said Sudan had also left behind police to protect an oil field inside Abyei.

Abyei has been a main bone of contention between the African neighbours, which came close to all-out war last month when border fighting escalated, the worst violence since South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July.

The UN Security Council on Thursday demanded that Sudan withdraw its armed police from Abyei amid warnings there is still "hair-trigger" tension between the Khartoum government and South Sudan.

The Security Council's demand came after UN chief Ban Ki-moon and South Sudan urged Khartoum to complete its pullout.

Ban welcomed the "full withdrawal" on Tuesday of the Sudan Armed Forces from the Abyei area, but he called on the Sudanese government to withdraw "all remaining armed police forces," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

Sudan was "deceiving the world, saying that they have withdrawn their forces," South Sudan's chief negotiator Pagan Amum said on Thursday in Addis Ababa where the two countries are holding their first talks since coming to the brink of all-out war in April.

After fighting along the disputed border in March and April, the Security Council called on the two sides to cease hostilities and resume talks on a number of issues, including the status of Abyei, the most sensitive matter left unresolved before South Sudan's independence last July.

The council's May 2 resolution said both sides had to pull their forces out of Abyei by May 16. South Sudan complied, withdrawing police who were based there, while Sudan pulled its army out after the deadline.

Abyei has been a main bone of contention between the African neighbours, which came close to all-out war last month when border fighting escalated, the worst violence since South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July.

Last year, Sudan seized Abyei, a region with fertile grazing land and small oil reserves, after an attack on a military convoy blamed by the United Nations on the southern army.

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