The rival Sudans kept up a diplomatic battle over the disputed oil town of Heglig, even as South Sudan said it would withdraw its troops. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the two sides to return to negotiations “immediately” as their envoys traded barbs at the UN headquarters. But the differing versions over the fate of the oil town — which the South’s troops entered 10 days ago — underscored the heightened antagonism between the two sides. Sudan’s UN Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman said the South’s troops had been hunted out. “They have been cornered, we fought against them and we chased them out. It is not a withdrawal, we ran them out,” the envoy told reporters. “An orderly withdrawal will be completed within the next three days or 72 hours,” South Sudan’s UN Ambassador Agnes Oswaha countered, reaffirming an announcement by President Salva Kiir. South Sudan broke away from the north following a referendum under a 2005 peace deal that ended a two-decade civil war in which more than two million people died. The South’s ambassador said Heglig, which the South calls Panthou, remains South Sudanese territory and the dispute must be decided by international arbitration along with “other contested areas along the shared border.” “Instability could reoccur” if international action for a full solution to territorial disputes is not carried out, she said. Salva Kiir was ready to go to a neutral location for a summit with the north’s President Omar al-Bashirm, the envoy said. The UN leader “takes note” of South Sudan’s announcement that it will pull out of Heglig, said UN deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey. Ban urged both governments “to resume negotiations immediately” under a mediation effort led by African Union envoy Thabo Mbeki, the former South African president.
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Newsline: Diplomatic battle over South Sudan’s troop exit