South Sudan says it has successfully seen off a bid by the Sudanese army to retake Heglig. Meanwhile, the UN is calling for an end to the fighting.
South Sudan said Saturday that it had repulsed an attempt by the Sudanese army to recapture the oil-rich town of Heglig, which lies within a disputed border region and was occupied by South Sudan earlier in the week.
"They tried to attack our positions around 40 miles north of Heglig last night but it was contained," South Sudanese Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said.
"Heglig is (still) under our control," he added.
The Sudanese army announced late on Friday that its troops were advancing on Heglig.
And earlier on Friday, South Sudan offered to withdraw its forces from the town in exchange for the deployment of UN troops and monitors in the contested border region of South Kordofan.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on both Kiir and al-Bashir to immediately begin direct talks in a bid "to avoid further bloodshed."
South Sudan was declared an independent state nine months ago, yet the two sides still contest the location of the border, division of national debt and the status of citizens in each other's territory.
The African Union has acted as mediator in talks on these disputes and also issues concerning oil production and fees that the landlocked South should pay to use Sudanese pipelines and ports since the South's secession. Sudan pulled out of these talks on Wednesday in response to the South's capture of Heglig.
South Sudanese independence from Khartoum was intended to bring relative peace after decades of civil war in which an estimated 2 million people died.
sej/sb (AFP, dpa, Reuters)