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U.N. tries to prevent a Sudans war with sanctions

Soldiers of the South-Sudan's Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) leave the Rubkona Military Hospital in Rubkona, South Sudan, on April 20, 2012. South Sudan on April 20 ordered an end to its 10-day occupation of Sudan's main oilfield at Heglig, a move which had sparked fears of a wider war, but Sudan said its forces had chased them out. Border clashes between Sudan and South Sudan escalated last week with waves of air strikes hitting the South, and Juba seizing the Heglig oil hub on April 10.
ADRIANE OHANESIAN/AFP/GettyImages

(AP) UNITED NATIONS - In an attempt to avert a new war in Africa, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday threatening non-military sanctions against Sudan and South Sudan if they don't halt escalating violence and return to negotiations.

The legally binding resolution endorses an African Union roadmap with strict timelines for concrete actions by both countries to get them to step back from the brink of major hostilities and resolve differences over their border and oil resources and revenues.

Addressing the council after the vote, South Sudan's Minister of Cabinet Affairs Deng Alor stated his government's "solemn commitment" to comply with the resolution.

But Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman expressed reservations, saying peace will only be achieved if South Sudan stops "all forms of support and sheltering of proxy and rebel armed groups" and "until that is given a priority in the negotiations, it will be extremely difficult to proceed on any other matter" covered by the resolution.

China, a major oil buyer from both countries, and Russia traditionally oppose sanctions but voted in favor of the U.S.-drafted resolution after a minor change to the text — a reflection of growing international alarm at the crisis.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said he supported the resolution "given the need for a swift overcoming of the dangerous phase in relations between Sudan and South Sudan."

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But Churkin stressed that Russia considers sanctions "an extreme measure" and underscored "that the arsenal of political and diplomatic instruments for normalizing the situation has nowhere been exhausted,"

China's U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong said Beijing is "always very cautious about the use or threat of sanctions" but supported the resolution, taking into account the AU's call for Security Council endorsement of the roadmap and noting that his government is "deeply worried" about the deterioration in relations between Sudan and South Sudan.

Li stressed that international community should "refrain from interfering in the mediation efforts of the African Union and other regional organizations," a view echoed by Sudan's U.N. ambassador.

"China has all along maintained that the international community should take an objective, impartial and balanced position on Sudan and South Sudan," Li said.

The resolution condemns repeated cross-border violence between the two sides, including troop movements, the South's seizure of the oil-rich town of Heglig, support to proxy forces by both countries, and Sudan's aerial bombings in the South. There has been talk in both countries of trying to get rid of the other's leaders and the resolution also condemns "actions by any armed group aimed at the forced overthrow of the government of either Sudan or South Sudan."

Churkin called for "appropriate compensation" for the damage to oil facilities in Heglig — internationally recognized to be in Sudan — caused during South Sudan's seizure.

South Sudan won independence from Sudan last year as part of a 2005 peace treaty that ended decades of war that killed 2 million people. But the neighboring countries have been drawing closer to all-out war in recent weeks over the unresolved issues of oil revenues and their disputed border.