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At UN, Sudans Statement Gets "Balanced," Khartoum Drops Oil Fee to $32 and Drops Bombs, Juba Says

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 27 -- The UN Security Council issued a press statement late Tuesday on Sudan and South Sudan, after the silence procedure was broken and Deputy Permanent Representatives met to change the statement.

  While they negotiated, South Sudan's Director General of Multilateral Relations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mayen Dut Wol told Inner City Press that Khartoum had started aerial bombing inside his country, and was demanding $32 dollar a barrel in oil transfer fees, down from $36 dollars but much higher than the less than a dollar a barrel South Sudan says is paid by Azerbaijan to Turkey, for example.

  He said that the SLPA had entered Jau and one of the five areas in dispute.

   Hours later when March's Security Council president Mark Lyall Grant of the UK read out the press statement, Inner City Press asked him why the UN Mission in South Sudan hasn't confirmed or denied the bombings.

  Lyall Grant said that UNMISS "does not have a mandate to monitor action at the border, they don’t have access into the border areas," and that's why the Council hopes the mandate of the UNISFA mission in Abyei -- made up entirely of Ethiopian troops -- can be expanded.

  Sometimes UNMISS' non-reporting, though, seems to have political roots. UNMISS has still not issued its estimate of how many people were killed in Pibor in Jonglei state at the beginning of the year, when the UN was slow to arrive due to not having their Russian helicopters flying. (Russia says they told the UN they wouldn't fly as early as November).

  UNMISS chief Hilde Johnson told Inner City Press ten days ago the UN's report on Pibor was going to be finished and made public very soon. But where is it?

  Sudan Permanent Representative Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman put the number of dead in Jonglei at 6000, for the proposition that South Sudan has a lot of problems and shouldn't be attacking North Sudan. He denied any aerial bombing and said that the areas the SLPA entered were indisputably part of Sudan.

  Inner City Press asked Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman about a statement by Tijani el Sissi, a former UN staff member now an authority in Darfur, that Chad and Sudan could patrol their own borders and the UN Mission UNAMID could leave.

  Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman said the the UN is thinking of moving away from UNAMID's military role and that the Chad-Sudan joint patrol idea is being emulated in West Africa.

Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman said that such joint patrols had been proposed to South Sudan, which responded no or not yet.

  One wished that South Sudan was present to answer, whether by Mayen Dut Wol or otherwise, and wondered if one of Sudan's allies on the Council told them when to come to the stakeout and South Sudan's supporters had not done the same. The statement was, in UN parlance, balanced. But the stakeout was not.

  It becomes increasingly clear that the oil transfer fee issues should have been resolved prior to South Sudan's independence. The sides are far, far apart and now oil is not being pumped.

  Tuesday morning Mayen Dut Wol of South Sudan spoke about memoranda of understanding to route oil through Kenya and elsewhere, saying this might be two years off. This issue must be resolved. But will the previously scheduled April 3 presidential summit somehow take place? Watch this site.

From the UK Mission transcript:

Inner City Press: Does the Council believe that the UN Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, has any role... There’s been all these reports back and forth where South Sudan says they were bombed, North Sudan says they didn’t do the bombing. What’s the role of the Peacekeeping mission... I understand that they don’t have a formal border monitoring role, but just to be able to verify or not that bombs are dropped.

Amb Lyall Grant: UNMISS in South Sudan does not have a mandate to monitor action at the border. They don’t have access into the border areas and so are unable, under normal circumstances, to verify actions. They have in the past been able to comment on aerial bombardments when they have seen that, but it isn’t part of their mandate to do that and report to the Council on that. That is why we’re keen that the mandate that UNISFA has, which is to monitor the border, and verify what is happening at the border, is established as soon as possible and starts its work.

Inner City Press: I'll ask Ambassador Daffa-Alla if he does a stakeout, but does the Security Council, it’s understanding that the Presidential Summit on April 3rd will take place or is now suspended as was said from Khartoum?

Amb Lyall Grant: We certainly hope that it will take place but, of course, it’s not for me to say whether both Presidents will turn up. Thank you very much.

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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

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