18 dead in Sudan raid, UN seeks to calm tension

18 dead in Sudan raid, UN seeks to calm tension Juba: A cross-border attack by Sudanese troops on a military base killed 18 fighters, South Sudan's army charged, as the UN Security Council sought ways to end spiralling violence between the two states.

Relations between Sudan and its newly-independent southern neighbour have deteriorated sharply this week, due to fighting either side of the new international frontier that has prompted an angry exchange of accusations.

Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said the Security Council was discussing ways "we might prevail on the parties to de-escalate, return to the negotiating table and solve critical issues that divide them."

The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) reported a ground attack in Upper Nile state on Thursday, when the northern army also bombed Yida refugee camp in nearby Unity state and another site in Upper Nile.

"There has been fighting in Kuek after an attack on our base by Sudanese armed forces (SAF) and mercenaries" that started at 9:00 am (0600 GMT) on Thursday and lasted seven hours, SPLA spokesman Philip Aguer said.

"On our side, five were killed and 26 were wounded, and on the side of the attackers, 13 bodies were counted on the ground and they have 47 wounded," Aguer said, claiming the assailants used mortars, AK-47 assault rifles and heavy machineguns.

Aguer said the attackers had been driven back across the border, but added that more incursions were expected in South Sudan's oil-producing region.

Sudanese officials rejected the accusations against Khartoum.

"There is no aerial bombardment, we did not exercise any kind of military activity outside our borders," Sudan's UN envoy Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman told reporters after the Security Council meeting in New York.

His claims were dismissed by Rice, who said the Khartoum envoy had "blatantly lied" to the Council.

But Osman's account of events was echoed by Sudan's foreign ministry spokesman Al-Obeid Merwah, who said the army had no intention of following the northern branch of the SPLA into South Sudan.

"We are asking the international community to exert more pressure on the government of South Sudan to withdraw their SPLA troops, which are fighting in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, to South Sudan and disarm them," Merwah said.

SAF Army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad was quoted by official Sudanese media as saying that international condemnation, especially from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the United States, was based on false information.

UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the Security Council meeting that the UN mission in South Sudan had confirmed information about Sudanese forces dropping "at least two bombs near the Yida refugee camp," one of which landed close to a school.