Report: South Sudan sues Khartoum over oil

January 22, 2012 - 10:15 AM

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — South Sudan is suing Sudan for "looting" its oil and will no longer export crude through its northern neighbor's territory, a Sudanese daily reported Sunday, citing officials, in the latest spat between the two governments over the coveted resource in the newly independent southern nation.

South Sudan Information Minister Marial Benjamin said the lawsuit was filed in "specialized international tribunals against Sudan and some companies" that bought the crude, the Al-Sahafa daily said. Benjamin did not provide additional details on the venue or when the lawsuit was filed.

The case is the latest development in a long-simmering fight between the two governments over the oil they share. Most of it lies within the borders of South Sudan, which achieved independence last July.

On Jan. 17, South Sudan Minister of Petroleum and Mining Stephen Dhieu Dau said Sudan is diverting about 120,000 barrels of oil pumped from the south daily, a move the northern government said stemmed from the unpaid transit fees for the oil carried in pipelines from the south to export terminals in its territory. The two sides have been unable to resolve the dispute.

South Sudan's Cabinet Affairs minister, Deng Alor, said that his country has halted pumping crude through Sudan and would begin building a pipeline across east Africa that would allow it to export its oil through Kenya. The project would take about a year, he told Al-Sahafa.

"Our economy will not be affected by this step," he said, adding that South Sudan had enough in cash reserves to sustain it for five years. Even if the economy was affected, it would be preferable to the "looting" taking place by Sudan, he was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

The Khartoum government downplayed the potential impact of the move by the south. Sudanese State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Amin Hassan Omar said that the oil currently held in pipelines would cover a considerable portion of the debts owed by the south.

The suspension of oil production is a "tactical move that will not last long," he told Al-Sahafa.