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EU-Sudan-DisputedReg 3rdLd 07-22

Arbitration panel gives oil field to Sudan

Eds: ADDS further details, background. RESTORES byline.

By MIKE CORDER

Associated Press Writer

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — An international arbitration panel on Wednesday awarded the Sudanese government control over a large oil field, settling a boundary dispute with southern Sudan that led to bloodshed last year.

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The five-member Permanent Court of Arbitration affirmed the northern boundary of the Abyei region as set by a 2005 boundary commission, but drew new boundaries in the east and west that placed the Heglig oil fields and the Nile oil pipeline under control of the Khartoum government.

Dirdeiry Mohamed Ahmed, the head of the northern government delegation, called the decision a victory.

"We welcome the fact that the oil fields are now excluded from the Abyei area, particularly the Heglig oil field," he said.

Riek Machar Teny, Deputy Chairman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, said the semiautonomous southerners accepted the panel’s ruling.

"I think the decision is balanced. We are committed to respecting it," he told The Associated Press. "I think this is going to consolidate peace in Sudan. It is a victory for the Sudanese people and a victory for peace."

The arbitration is a crucial test for the 2005 peace agreement that ended 20 years of warfare between the government and southern Sudanese rebels.

Abyei, with its rich oil reserves and grazing lands used by nomadic herders from the North and South, has suffered flare-ups of violence since the peace deal. The North and South asked the Hague-based arbitration panel to set the borders once and for all following a battle in May 2008 in which 22 northern soldiers were killed, most of the town of Abyei was burned to the ground and its 50,000 residents were forced to flee.

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