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      Sudanese Tensions Could Impact Israel

      Israel's plans to return illegal Sudanese immigrants home could be harmed as Juba warns Khartoum 'oil deal or war'
      By Gabe Kahn.
      First Publish: 2/2/2012, 4:44 PM

      Sudanese migrant in Israel
      Sudanese migrant in Israel
      Flash 90

      President Salva Kiir of South Sudan warned Thursday that if entrenched oil negotiations with the north do not include a deal on other key issues, including the contested Abyei region, it could mean war.

      "It would not be fair to my people to support an agreement that invites more conflict by failing to resolve underlying issues," Kiir told reporters.

      "An agreement that we would consider signing should not only focus on the oil crisis, but be comprehensive to cover all the outstanding issues," he added.

      Kiir said he rejected an offer from North Sudan last week because it failed to address the future of the contested Abyei region, nearly the size of Israel, which both sides claim but is occupied by Khartoum.

      "The (proposed) agreement would guarantee future - and possibly immediate - conflict over land, people and oil," Kiir said.

      Conflict between South Sudan and North Sudan could have a direct impact on Israel, which is presently seeking to return a growing population of illegal immigrants from South Sudan to their country of origin.

      Earlier this week, Israel's Interior Ministry directed the National Immigration Authority to lay the groundwork to send refugees from South Sudan home on the grounds conflict in their home country was at end.

      Israel is offering amnesty and an assistance basket to South Sudanese who are in the country illegally who identify themselves and agree to return home by 1 April 2012.

      After that date, arrest and deportation will be the method used to return them to South Sundan. Should conflict war begin anew Jerusalem could face left-wing and international pressure not to deport them.

      The issue of illegal African immigration to Israel has become a political incendiary with officials expressing concern that the growing trend will affect the demographic character of the Jewish state.

      Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in December 2011 that he plans to visit African nations - including South Sudan - this year to discuss the return of illegal immigrants in Israel to their countries of origin.

      Meanwhile, South Sudan has taken what observers describe as the "extreme step" of shutting down oil production as it wrangled with rival North Sudan over resource and territorial rights.

      Today oil production, the fledgling nation's top revenue source, and African Union-mediated talks remain frozen.

      UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Sunday that tensions and a furious row over oil between the former enemies has become a major threat to regional peace and security.

      Juba rejected a draft agreement proposing the oil-rich but grossly underdeveloped South give Khartoum $5.4 billion, to be paid by Sudan's taking of 35,000 barrels of oil per day.

      "It is difficult for me to accept a deal that leaves our people vulnerable, dependent and paying billions that they do not owe," Kiir said.

      "We reject that assumption that mutual dependency of our two nations is the path to peace. It is not. Dependency only brought us continued confrontation and human suffering. This cycle must be broken," he said.