- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2012

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit on Thursday defied calls from the United States, United Nations and African Union to withdraw his forces from an oil field along the disputed border with Sudan.

Mr. Mayardit said he would not pull his troops out of the Heglig oil field until Sudan agrees not to use the oil-rich region as a base to launch attacks on South Sudan or until the United Nations deploys a peacekeeping force.

South Sudan says its troops captured Heglig this week to prevent attacks by Sudanese troops.

South Sudan’s armed forces had exercised restraint despite repeated attacks by Sudanese troops from Heglig, Mr. Mayardit said.

“For several weeks the territory of South Sudan has also repeatedly been subject to aerial bombardments” from Sudan Armed Forces, he added.

The Obama administration and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday urged both countries to halt hostilities that have brought them dangerously close to an all-out war.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland chastised South Sudan’s military for attacking Heglig and said the conflict increased tensions between the neighbors to dangerous levels.

The Sudanese government has vowed to use “all legitimate means” to retake the oil fields in Heglig and has warned of unspecified “destruction” in South Sudan.

South Sudan became independent from Sudan on July 9 of last year. The two neighbors have had a rocky relationship ever since.