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Sudan, South Sudan agree new timeline to restart oil
by Staff Writers
Addis Ababa (AFP) March 12, 2013

Guinea-Bissau 'coup conspirators' in court martial
Bissau (AFP) March 12, 2013 - A group of soldiers accused of an attack on an elite commando barracks which the Guinea Bissau government described as an attempted coup appeared before a court martial on Tuesday.

The 17 defendants are accused of crimes against the security of the state and attacking a military unit on October 21 last year after a dawn raid which left seven people dead, including six of the attackers.

One of the defendants, Captain Pansau N'Tchama, the head of a commando unit that is believed to have assassinated president Joao Bernardo Vieira in 2009, had been accused of being the ringleader.

But the tribunal heard the two masterminds were now considered to be a captain named Jorge Sambu and another of the defendants, Lieutenant-Colonel Braima Djedjo.

Transition authorities in Guinea Bissau have accused former colonial power Portugal of instigating the attack in a bid to reinstate former prime minister Carlos Gomes Junior who was ousted in an April 12 coup.

Military prosecutor Luis Amilcar Cabral read out a 30-page document setting out in detail the alleged conspiracy and prepared from interrogations of the suspects and other investigations.

The coup bid caused further turmoil in the west African nation which has suffered chronic instability since independence from Portugal in 1974 due to conflict between the army and state.

No president has ever completed a full term in office.

Coups, counter-coups and regular assassinations have also made the unstable nation an attractive destination for South American druglords seeking a hub to move cocaine into Europe.

South Sudan on Tuesday signed the latest of a string of deals to restart the flow of oil stalled for more than a year after shutting down pipelines through arch-rival Sudan.

The agreement sets a 14-day deadline from signing for both Juba and Khartoum "to instruct oil companies to re-establish oil production", according to a copy of the deal seen by AFP.

If the agreement is followed -- and multiple previous deals have been ignored -- it could still take several weeks for companies to reopen pipelines. But it offered fresh hope of a breakthrough to end the crisis.

Sudan's chief negotiator Idris Mohammed Abdel-Gadir inked the deal with his South Sudanese counterpart Pagan Amum. It was countersigned by the African Union mediator, former South African president Thabo Mbeki.

The two neighbours are increasingly cash-strapped after Juba shut down oil output a year ago in a furious row accusing Khartoum of stealing its crude.

Since then the former civil war foes -- which fought again along their undemarcated border in March and April 2012 -- have failed to implement a string of deals.

South Sudan won independence in July 2011 after a referendum set up under a 2005 peace agreement that ended more than two decades of bloody civil war.

But while South Sudan took with it the bulk of the oil fields, the pipeline infrastructure all runs north through Sudan.

The two rival negotiators and Mbeki smiled widely and shook hands after signing the deal in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Troops from both sides -- in some places posted hundreds of metres (yards) apart in an uneasy standoff -- will begin withdrawal from a border buffer zone within a week.

In addition, ten border crossing points, whose closure has strangled local traders, will also open within a week.

On Monday, the armies from both sides said they were pulling out to implement the demilitarised zone, although regional political experts have expressed doubt the latest effort will succeed.

As Sudan and South Sudan announced their moves to demilitarise the border, Khartoum's forces on Monday said they clashed with rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) in Blue Nile state.

Khartoum accuses South Sudan of supporting the rebels -- former comrades during the 1983-2005 civil war -- which has been a major obstacle to implementing the agreements.

The South, in turn, says Sudan backs insurgents on its territory, a tactic it used to deadly effect during the two decades of civil war.


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South Sudan, Sudan say pulling troops from tense border
Juba, South Sudan (AFP) March 11, 2013
The armies of South Sudan and Sudan on Monday said they were pulling troops from contested border areas, in the latest attempt to set up a buffer zone after fighting last year. Defence ministers from Juba and Khartoum agreed last Friday on steps to implement the demilitarised zone, which was never put into effect despite commitments by their presidents last September. A regional politica ... read more

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