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South Sudan threatens to retaliate against North in border dispute

South Sudan says the North is at risk of breaking a fragile 2005 peace deal that ended two decades of civil war.

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Smoke rise from burnt homes in Abyei town, in this handout photo released by the United Nations Mission in Sudan May 23. North Sudan's Army on Monday vowed to hold territory it seized over the weekend in the disputed region, defying a UN demand it withdraw and pushing the North and South closer to conflict as the south prepares to secede on July 9. Analysts fear north-south fighting over Abyei could reignite civil war.

Stuart Price/ Reuters

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The growing possibility of civil war over Sudan's most disputed border zone was confirmed Monday when the South Sudanese army said it would retaliate if the North's army continued to move south.

"Our mission is to protect the borders … any step south of this [North-South] border will not be tolerated," says South Sudan's military spokesman Philip Aguer.

On Saturday, northern forces seized the strategic, contested border town of Abyei and Mr. Aguer is warning the North that it is at risk of shattering the fragile 2005 peace deal that ended two decades of war.

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Now, in a bid to deescalate tensions, US envoy Princeton Lyman is warning that the North has risked debt relief worth billions of dollars by seizing Abyei.

Mr. Lyman told the Monitor in a Sunday phone interview that it was crucial for the North's President Omar al-Bashir and South Sudan President Salva Kiir to meet to discuss the crisis.

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