22 February 2013

Sudan: Blue Nile Dismisses Rumors About SPLM-N Capture of Key Border Town

Khartoum — The Blue Nile government dismissed rumors about the fall of Kurmuk town on the border with Ethiopia in the hands of Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) following the recent clashes in the southeast Sudan state.

The Sudanese army attacked the positions of the SPLM-N in Mafo, southeast of the Blue Nile last week but admitted that its troops had pulled out of the area as the rebels on the other hand said they defeated the army and following its troops to the outskirts of the city.

The spokesperson of the Blue Nile state government, Kamal Khalaf Allah told Ashrooq TV that reports about rebels advance towards Kurmuk are "unfounded rumours and media hype", asserting that the government readiness to repel any attack.

The head of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in the Blue Nile, Abdel-Rahman Bou-Midian told the private TV channel that what happened in Mafo is "a normal hit and run operation" and vowed to retake the area from the rebels.

The SPLM-N announced that its secretary general Yasir Arman will lead a negotiating delegation to Addis Ababa where the African Union mediation intends to organise direct talks between the two parties on 15 March to discuss peaceful solution to the conflict.

Khartoum did not yet say whether it would participate or not in the first direct political talks between with the SPLM-N as it demands that Juba should disengage with the latter before to engage negotiations.

Analysts in Khartoum agree that the recent surge of violence is however a prelude to negotiations between Khartoum and SPLM-N saying every side tries to strengthen its positions on the ground before the talks.

Kurmuk in the past changed hands several times between the SPLM and the Sudanese army. However, the Sudanese army control important parts of the Blue Nile where the fighting started on the first of September 2011.

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