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Amid Talk of Regime Change, South Sudan Holds onto Oil Town Heglig, Says Offered to Help Sudan With IMF

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 17 -- Amid reports of the South Sudanese forces in Heglig being joined by a range of Sudanese rebels seeking to overthrow the Omar al Bashir government, Inner City Press on Tuesday asked US Ambassador Susan Rice if this had been mentioned in the day's Security Council briefing by Thabo Mbeki, and what the US thought of the presence in Heglig of the Darfur-based rebels of the Justice & Equality Movement, now with weapons of the Gaddafi government of Libya.

  Ambassador Rice replied that "there was discussion in the context of Mbeki's briefing, about the perception in Khartoum that the South's objectives are regime change, and he reported indeed that the North has said that if that is so, their objective is now also regime change."

  As Inner City Press exclusively reported after Mbeki's and his fellow panelists' last closed door briefing of the Security Council, members of the Council heard that South Sudan thinks that without oil revenue, the Bashir government could remain in power for only eight or so months.

  That was after South Sudan stopped pumping oil, denying Sudan an oil transfer fee. Now with the takeover of Sudan's largest remaining oil field, Heglig, the timetable may be getting shorter.

  Ambassador Rice continued, "One would hope this is rhetoric, and not the object of either side... Both sides have provided support to proxies in each other's territory, it has continued in both directions and needs to end, as we [the US] have said on a national basis, and as the Security Council has said on an international basis."

South Sudan's charge d'affaires Agnes Oswaha, for her part, told the Press that "we leave regime change to the citizen of the continuing state of the Sudan, if they want to change the regime."

Inner City Press asked Ambassador Oswaha to confirm that that her government has shot down a Sudanese MiG 29 jet, something that the UN which has an expensive peacekeeping mission in South Sudan was unable or willing to do at Tuesday's noon briefing when Inner City Press asked.

Yes, Oswaha replied, there were MiG 29 jets "hovering, we shot one of them down, that's the reality... There are Antonovs, the situation not safe, we try protect our citizens."

Oswaha denied that the goal of taking Heglig was to "punish Sudan, which lost already one-forth of the oil... That wasn't our intention. We offered them $2.6 billion as a transition grant, offered to help with theirdebt, pursuing their debtors, the World Bank or the IMF to help with that process." To which we will be turning next: watch this site.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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