Sudanese government dismisses threats on oil fields

The Sudanese government has dismissed threats to attack oil fields made by rebels of the Justice and Equality Movement who claim to have carried out one assault already.

Eric Watkins
Senior Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 29 -- The Sudanese government has dismissed threats to attack oil fields made by rebels of the Justice and Equality Movement who claim to have carried out one assault already, kidnapping two oil workers in the process.

"The Justice and Equality Movement can say what they like, but they are incapable of doing anything," said Sudan's Defense Minister Abdel Rahman Mohammed Hussein, who did not confirm or deny rebel claims.

"The JEM say that they will attack oil fields, but these are dreams that will not come true," he said, also declining to say whether a Canadian and an Iraqi oil worker had been kidnapped in the attack, as JEM said.

JEM Field Commander Abdulaziz al-Nur Ashr in the Kordofan area, east of the war-ravaged region of Darfur, on Oct. 23 said his forces had kidnapped two workers in an attack on Defra oil field operated by Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Co.

GNPOC is a joint venture of China National Petroleum Co. 40%, Petronas of Malaysia 30%, Oil & Natural Gas Corp. of India 25%, and Sudan National Petroleum Corp. (Sudapet) 5%.

"We attacked Defra oilfield and kidnapped two foreign workers. One is Canadian, and another is Iraqi," said Abdulaziz. He said at least eight nearby oil fields had been shut down in fear of attacks. He did not name them.

Abdulaziz said the two hostages would be released when the consortium agrees to hold talks with the rebel group, and he gave the consortium 7 days to leave the area or face further attacks.

He said JEM wants China, India, and Malaysia to stop their oil business with Sudan because the government is using oil revenues to buy arms and kill the people in the Darfur region.

In Beijing, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman confirmed reports that the oil field had been attacked but said Chinese citizens working there were safe.

China has declined to meet with the rebels separately, according to the JEM leader.

"We earlier made contacts with China through some diplomats, but it has refused to deal with us," Abdulaziz said. "It is now our position that we will release the two hostages after we talk with the company that employed them."

Talks on the Sudanese conflict sponsored by the United Nations and African Union were scheduled to start in Libya Oct. 27. The Sudanese government attended the talks, but the JEM and six factions of the Sudan Liberation Movement that are fighting in Darfur boycotted them.

Sudan produces about 480,000 b/d of oil.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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