The Sudanese government on Thursday denied a claim by the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) that it had seized three towns in oil-rich Unity State in the southern part of the country.
"The Unity State is quite free of any presence of the rebels and enjoys full stability," government army spokesman Mohammed Osman Yassin said in a statement released Thursday.
"Those are wishes," said Yassin, adding that Mankien and other areas the SPLA claims to have seized "are under control" of government troops which he said "are holding the initiative in all operations zones."
General Yassin said the SPLA "tended to resort to claims of achieving false victories whenever they failed to reach strategic areas they planned to take."
The SPLA said Monday that its guerrillas had repulsed a government offensive in Unity State and captured the three strategic zones of Boudh, Rier and Mankien on Sunday and Monday.
The Heglig field in Unity State is the source of the oil that made Sudan an oil exporter in August 1999.
The SPLA has said several times that it regards oil installations as legitimate targets, since it maintains that oil revenues are financing the government's war effort.
Western experts have put the cost of the war at a million dollars a day.
The mainly Christian and animist rebels of southern Sudan have been fighting Khartoum's successive Arab and Islamic governments since 1983 – KHARTOUM (AFP)
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