* South says troops remain in region, dressed as police
* Disputed Abyei area is a major source of tension
* Talks will be first since fighting stopped
* Sudan announced withdrawal before negotiations began (Adds details,
reaction from South Sudan)
KHARTOUM/ADDIS ABABA, May 30 (Reuters) - Sudan's army has withdrawn from the
disputed region of Abyei bordering South Sudan, the United Nations confirmed
on Wednesday, removing an obstacle to talks between the neighbours to end
But in a sign tensions were still running high, South Sudan accused its
northern neighbour of keeping dozens of troops in the region dressed as
police. Both sides have accused each other before of violating troop
deployment agreements in Abyei.
Sudan seized Abyei a year ago after an attack on a military convoy, blamed
by the United Nations on southern forces, and came close to all-out war last
month when border fighting escalated in the worst violence since South
"The (U.N.) Secretary-General (Ban Ki-moon) welcomes the full withdrawal of
the Sudan Armed Forces from the Abyei area...He calls on the Government of
Sudan to withdraw all remaining armed police forces," an emailed U.N.
South Sudan had already withdrawn its troops from Abyei, which has fertile
grazing lands and extensive oil reserves - a major sticking point in
negotiations after the split in July under a 2005 agreement that ended
decades of civil war.
Sudan still has a police force of about 50 inside Abyei, a diplomat close to
peace talks told Reuters, and they were expected leave soon.
Another official said South Sudan has also kept more than 20 unarmed
security personnel in the disputed area.
South Sudan's Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin accused Sudan of
keeping several platoons of soldiers in the region under the guise of police
"Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) have redeployed and not completely withdrawn
completely from Abyei," he told reporters in Juba.
"The Republic of South Sudan insists that SAF must withdraw its so-called
police from Abyei, and must stop escalating aggression against the Republic
of South Sudan."
No official comment was immediately available from Sudan.
Abyei is expected to be on the agenda at a second day of talks on Wednesday
at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa. The U.N. Security Council
has called on both sides to resume talks and end fighting or face sanctions.
The AU-brokered talks are the first since negotiations were broken off
during the fighting last month.
However, diplomats expect no quick breakthrough as both sides are at
loggerheads over a long list of disagreements from marking the disputed
border and deciding on the status of Abyei to agreeing on oil export fees
for South Sudan.
The landlocked new nation inherited much of Sudan's oil reserves and shut
down production in January to stop Khartoum from taking oil for what the
latter called unpaid export fees. (Reporting by Aaron Maasho, Hereward
Holland and Ulf Laessing; Writing by Ulf Laessing and Alexander Dziadosz;
Editing by Louise Ireland)
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Received on Wed May 30 2012 - 17:11:23 EDT