- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NAIROBI, KENYA The president of Sudan and his counterpart in the new nation of South Sudan are predicting the possibility of a new war in an oil-rich region that has seen a spike in cross-border attacks.

Troop buildups are being reported on both sides of the Sudan-South Sudan border, the world’s newest international boundary, and rebels in Sudan have announced a new alliance with the aim of overthrowing their own government, which is seated in the capital, Khartoum.

The U.S. is pleading for cooler heads to prevail, even as aid workers are withdrawing from the region after two bombing runs into South Sudan by Sudan, its northern neighbor, this month.

After two long wars that spanned decades, South Sudan formally declared independence from Sudan in July following a successful independence referendum in January that was guaranteed in a 2005 peace deal. The world celebrated the peaceful breakup of Sudan.

But big disputes that have long lurked in the background are now festering and flaring into violence.

An agreement to split the region’s oil revenues was never reached. The borders were never fully demarcated.

And perhaps most important, the breakup left two large groups of people in Sudan’s south in the lurch, groups that Sudan has labeled rebels and that Khartoum’s military has been attacking for months.

In addition, the Khartoum government is facing a financial crisis owing to the loss of oil revenue and rising food prices, said John Prendergast, co-founder of the U.S.-based Enough Project, which closely monitors Sudan.

“Each spark heightens the possibility of all-out war, and the sparks are occurring with more frequency now,” Mr. Prendergast said.

Sudanese President Omar Bashir accuses the south of arming what he calls rebels in Sudan. He said this month that if the south wants to return to war, his army is prepared, as he ticked off recent clashes he said the north won.

“We are ready to teach you another lesson,” Lt. Gen. Bashir said.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir responded, saying Gen. Bashir’s accusation are only to justify “his pending invasion.” Mr. Kiir said South Sudan is committed to peace, but will not allow its sovereignty to be violated.

This month, U.S. and other international officials said Sudanese military aircraft twice flew into South Sudan territory and dropped bombs. In the second attack, two bombs landed in a refugee camp. There were no casualties.

The U.S. demanded that Sudan halt aerial bombardments immediately.

“This is a moment where both sides need to show maximum restraint,” said Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. “In the first instance, the government of Sudan needs to halt all offensive actions against the south. Immediately. And the south needs to have the wisdom and restraint not to take the bait and not to respond in kind.”

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