- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2012

The Obama administration on Monday condemned a Sudanese military incursion into South Sudan and called for the withdrawal of all northern militia from the south.

Sudan must immediately halt the aerial and artillery bombardment in South Sudan by the Sudan Armed Forces,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.

She also called on both countries to end all military support for rebel groups within the other country.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Monday visited the scene of the latest fighting, the disputed oil-rich region of Heglig that lies just north of the border between his country and South Sudan.

South Sudan claims Heglig, which it calls Panthou, as part of its territory. The international community recognizes Heglig as part of the north according to the border that was created on Jan. 1, 1956.

Recognizing South Sudan’s right to self-defense, Ms. Nuland said the fledgling country should “refrain from disproportionate actions which would only further inflame the hostilities” with Sudan.

She urged South Sudan to complete a total withdrawal of its armed forces deployed across the Jan. 1, 1956, border.

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit on Friday announced that he would withdraw troops from Heglig within 72 hours, but he and other South Sudanese officials did not give up their claims on the region.

“The decision to withdraw from Panthou is without prejudice to South Sudan’s position that Panthou is part of South Sudan,” said Agnes Oswaha, the south’s acting deputy permanent representative to the United Nations.

South Sudan’s army defeated Sudanese troops near Heglig and took control of the town two weeks ago.

Gen. Bashir says his army then drove South Sudanese forces out of Heglig.

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