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Sudan to Offer Darfur Oilfield for Development, Angering Rebels
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Jan 28, 2010 - 7:09:47 AM

Sudan to Off
er Darfur Oilfield for Development, Angering Rebels

By Maram Mazen

Jan. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Sudan wants oil companies to develop a new oilfield in its troubled northwestern Darfur region, Energy and Mining Minister Al-Zubair Ahmed Al-Hassan said today.

Block 12b is located in the South Darfur state and will be offered to investors “soon,” the minister told reporters at a Chinese-Arab cooperation forum in Khartoum. He didn’t elaborate.

Finding oil is crucial for northern Sudan’s economic survival if the crude-producing region in the south votes in 2011 to secede and form an independent state. The planned referendum is part of a 2005 peace agreement that ended two decades of civil war between the north and south, which produces most of Sudan’s 500,000 barrels a day.

“We urge companies not to deal with the regime in Khartoum in oil exploration,” Ahmed Hussein, a spokesman for the Justice and Equality Movement, a rebel group in Darfur, said by telephone from the Qatari capital Doha. “The government uses oil money to strengthen its military machine against the people in Darfur.”

China National Petroleum Corp., Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd. and India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp. are among international companies investing in Sudan. The government is interested in more cooperation with China, the biggest foreign investor in Sudan’s energy industry, Al-Hassan said.

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have criticized China for supporting the Sudanese government in exchange for oil while turning a blind eye to the crisis in Darfur. China denies the charges.

Improved Security

Clashes between pro-government forces and rebels in Darfur, along with tribal fighting, banditry and disease, have killed about 300,000 people, according to United Nations estimates. The government puts the death toll at about 10,000. The rebels took up arms in 2003, saying the government neglected the region.

The Sudanese government says security in Darfur has improved, a claim disputed by rebel groups in the region. Foreign oil workers in Sudan have been subject to attacks in the past. In October 2008, nine Chinese oil workers were kidnapped in the central Southern Kordofan state. Five were killed during a botched attempt by the Sudanese armed forces to free them.

Among the new oil discoveries in northern Sudan is the so- called Block 10 in the eastern state of Al-Qadarif, which the ministry is offering to producers, the minister said. The central government and that of semi-autonomous South Sudan have also formed a committee to select a consortium of oil companies to develop Block EA in the south, he said.

Red Sea Petroleum Co., which has partners from China, Malaysia and Nigeria, is exploring for oil off the northern coast, Al-Hassan said.

“For the first time there is exploration deep in the Red Sea for oil,” Al-Hassan said. “We hope beside gas, there will be oil.”

Sudan has started talks with Chinese companies on partnerships in renewable energy, including solar and wind, the minister said, without elaborating.

-- With assistance from Alaa Shahine in Cairo. Editors: Torrey Clark, Stephen Cunningham

To contact the reporter on this story: Maram Mazen in Khartoum via Cairo newsroom [email protected].

Last Updated: January 27, 2010 11:50 EST

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