Kiir expected in Sudan for talks

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IOL pic jan30 south sudan kiir presser Reuters South Sudan President Salva Kiir. File picture: Hakim George

Juba - War-torn South Sudan's president is expected in Sudan on Saturday for a one-day summit, official media reported, after Khartoum warned of a threat to peace in the disputed Abyei border area.

“President Salva Kiir will visit Sudan at the invitation of President (Omar) al-Bashir,” the state SUNA news agency said, citing the foreign ministry.

The meeting “comes in the context of the continuous contacts between the leaders of the two countries for consolidating bilateral relations”.

South Sudan's embassy confirmed the visit.

Fighting erupted in South Sudan on December 15 between forces loyal to Kiir and rebels loosely allied to sacked vice-president Riek Machar.

Aid agencies estimate the fighting has displaced more than 800 000 inside South Sudan.

About 255 000 others have fled to neighbouring countries, including close to 60 000 reported to have reached Sudan.

Through the East African regional block IGAD, Sudan has been part of efforts to find a peaceful settlement in South Sudan.

But in an interview with AFP last week, Bashir's top assistant Ibrahim Ghandour said the presence of South Sudanese troops in the long-disputed Abyei border area threatens peace between the two states.

About 660 South Sudanese soldiers and police were stationed in Abyei, along with up to 150 Sudanese police guarding a small oil complex, a February report by UN chief Ban Ki-moon said.

The United Nations Security Council has called the situation in UN-patrolled Abyei “highly volatile”.

Abyei's status was left unresolved when South Sudan separated from the north in 2011.

This will be the fourth meeting between Bashir and Kiir since September.

Oil flowing from southern fields through Sudan for export is crucial to both economies, but production has suffered since the war began in South Sudan. - AFP

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