KHARTOUM - Sudanese troops withdrew from the contested region of Abyei on the border with South Sudan on Tuesday, as demanded by the United Nations, state-linked media reported.
"Sudan decided to redeploy the troops out of Abyei area to offer a good environment for the talks," army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad said on Monday, when he announced the move.
He said Thabo Mbeki, African Union mediator for the Addis Ababa negotiations, had asked Khartoum to withdraw its forces from Abyei. Sources in Abyei confirmed the pullout to AFP. "Already it's finished and they released the area" to peacekeepers from the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), said one source, declining to be identified.
Numerous attempts to reach UNISFA for comment were unsuccessful but a diplomatic source said the peacekeeping force "has confirmed the withdrawal."
After fighting along the disputed border in March and April, the UN Security Council called on Sudan and South Sudan to cease hostilities and to resume talks on a number of issues including the status of Abyei, the most sensitive matter left unresolved before South Sudan's independence last July.
The council's May 2 resolution said both sides had to pull their forces out of Abyei by May 16.
South Sudan complied, withdrawing police who were based there, but Sudan had said it would withdraw only after a joint administrative body is established. The South said Khartoum was blocking the creation of the joint administration.
Before Tuesday's talks in Addis Ababa, the South's lead negotiator Pagan Amum accused Khartoum of not honouring its pledge on Abyei.
He said Sudanese troops remained there, and called for international action against Khartoum.
"We call on the Security Council and the AU to take measures against the Republic of Sudan," he said, without elaborating.
"We will put a clear list... of violations by the government of Sudan, including their failure to withdraw their forces from Abyei," he said.
Khartoum said on Sunday that it complained to the UN Security Council over alleged incursions into the Darfur region by South Sudan ahead of the negotiations.
Abyei was to have held a referendum in January 2011 on whether it belonged with the north or South, but that ballot was stalled over disagreement on who could vote.
After a similar vote, South Sudan separated last July but critical issues including Abyei were unresolved at independence.
The UN Security Council on May 17 made a new demand that Sudan "immediately" withdraw all troops from Abyei, and extended the mandate of the mainly Ethiopian UNISFA force for six more months.
The United Nations says more than 100,000 people remain displaced from Abyei, mostly in Agok in the area's far south, and in South Sudan.