Sudanese rebel leader John Garang warned in an interview published on Sunday, June 17, that foreign oil firms in Sudan were "legitimate targets" for attack and vowed his forces would one day seize the oil fields.
"We hold the (Sudanese) government responsible for losses that could be suffered by workers and companies operating in the oil fields," Garang, leader of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), told Al-Hayat newspaper.
"These companies are threatening us by continuing to drill for oil. We will pursue our resistance, and we consider them as legitimate targets," Garang told the Arabic daily, published in London and sold in Arab capitals.
The SPLA accuses Khartoum of using oil revenues to wage the war against the southern separatists. The government has been exporting oil since the end of August 1999 with the help of Chinese, Malaysian, Canadian, Swedish and other companies.
Garang, who gave the interview in the Eritrean capital Asmara amid SPLA advances toward the oil regions, also reiterated that Khartoum must suspend oil operations as a condition for a ceasefire.
The government and the SPLA agreed to negotiate a ceasefire during a regional summit in Nairobi on June 2 but the SPLA asked the government to suspend its oil operations.
Asked if he had plans to capture the oil regions, Garang replied: "We will take control of all the oil fields. I cannot tell you exactly when. But we are going to expel them (government troops). I have no doubt about it."
Sudan's president and military leader, Omar al-Beshir, vowed June 7 "never to relinquish the oilfields" as he mobilized pro-government militiamen to help the army drive back a rebel offensive in the oil-rich south.
The SPLA has captured a number of key towns in West Bahr el-Ghazal State and is close to the state capital, Wau.
Beshir has said the ultimate target of the SPLA offensive is oil-rich Unity State, to the east of West Bahr el-Ghazal state.
The SPLA already controls Warab State between Wau and Unity. If it were to capture the important Wau garrison, it would be well poised to advance on Unity without fear of attack, observers say.
The SPLA, which recruits among African tribes in the south who are animist or Christian, has been waging an 18-year war against successive Muslim and Arab governments in Khartoum.
Northern opposition groups took up arms against the government in 1985.
Beshir seized power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, and his government has pushed for establishing Islamic law throughout the country, which the SPLA vehemently rejects.
"The solution for attaining peace is to set up a confederate state with two separate constitutions, as long as the government does not want to separate religion from politics," Garang told Al-Hayat. — (AFP)
© Agence France Presse
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)