World Bulletin/News Desk
South Sudan plans to sell 6.4 million barrels of oil worth $300 million before shutting down its entire production by the end of July due to a row over its alleged support for rebels in neighbouring Sudan, its oil minister said on Saturday.
Sudan, the sole conduit for South Sudan's oil exports, said a month ago it would close two cross-border oil pipelines within 60 days and insisted output be shut by Aug. 7 unless South Sudan gave up support for the rebels. Juba denies backing insurgents.
The shutdown is bad news for both countries, which fought one of Africa's longest civil wars before separating in 2011.
Diplomats worry South Sudan might collapse without oil, the main source for the budget apart from foreign grants. They point to recent looting of aid agencies by soldiers as a sign that Juba is struggling to pay salaries.
Closing the wells is also grave news for Sudan, which has been struggling with turmoil since losing most oil reserves with South Sudan's secession. oil fees from Juba are essential to bringing down soaring inflation, which stokes dissent.
oil industry insiders say once the pipelines are closed it will take several months to restart production as they would have to be flushed of water and cleaned first.
"There is enough crude in the pipeline to meet this," he said. Sudan has said it would allow the sale of oil which has already reached pipelines on its territory or the export terminal on the Red Sea.
Dau repeated South Sudan was not backing any Sudanese rebels. "We are committed to the flow of the oil. It is in the interest of the two countries. We don't see that this shutdown can bring any peace or stop internal rebellions in Sudan."
Khartoum accuses Juba of supporting the "Sudanese Revolutionary Front" (SRF), a rebel alliance, which complains of neglect at the hands of the wealthy Khartoum elites. The SRF in April staged an attack on central Sudan, embarrassing the army on whose support President Omar Hassan al-Bashir depends.
South Sudan in turn accuses Sudan of backing rebels in its eastern Jonglei state, where fighting is making it impossible to realise government plans to search for oil with the help of France's Total and U.S. Exxon Mobil.
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