South Sudan defiant after winning battle for disputed oilfield

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir refused yesterday to withdraw his country's troops from a disputed border region with neighbouring Sudan, heightening fears of a full-scale conflict between the nations.

On Wednesday, troops from South Sudan captured the oil-rich border town of Heglig, which is claimed by Sudan. Sudan's troops were forced to withdraw under the onslaught. Mr Kiir said that South Sudan's military forces, the SPLA, had also advanced past Heglig after occupying it.

Mr Kiir spoke to parliament in the midst of escalating clashes along the border. He said the country's military would also re-enter another disputed area, Abyei, which is occupied by Sudan, if the United Nations does not urge Sudan to withdraw. Heglig has been the focal point of clashes for more than two weeks. Both sides claim the area, but Sudan operates Heglig's oil facilities, which account for nearly half of the country's daily production.

The town is 60 miles east of the disputed region of Abyei, whose fate was left unresolved when South Sudan split last year from Sudan.

The military advance by South Sudan into territory it claims, but is internationally recognised as Sudan's, brought swift condemnation from the United States and Britain.

Both nations, along with the UN Security Council, urged South Sudan to withdraw from the town of Heglig and condemned the bombings of South Sudan territory by Sudan.