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Tuesday, September 21, 1999 Published at 13:31 GMT 14:31 UK

World: Africa

Rebels attack Sudan oil pipeline

Rebels from the Sudan People's Liberation Army have vowed to disrupt oil exports

By Middle East correspondent Jim Muir

Rebels opposed to the Sudanese Government say they have carried out an attack on the country's newest oil pipeline.

The pipeline, which is the longest in Africa, only recently began pumping about 130,000 barrels a day to a terminal on the Red Sea coast from where it is being exported by ship.

Sudan joined the ranks of oil-exporting nations last month with an inaugural shipment of 600,000 barrels of crude to Singapore.

But opposition rebels have been swift to make good their promise to disrupt this source of much-needed foreign exchange for the Khartoum government.

A spokesman for the opposition umbrella group said its guerrillas carried out the bomb attack on the pipeline on Sunday night near the town of Atbara.

The spokesman said the aim was to deprive the Sudanese government of funds with which to keep itself in power and to finance its war effort against rebels in the south of the country.

Oil-filled crater

The authorities in Khartoum had earlier admitted that the pipeline had been hit, but described the damage as limited.

A spokesman for one of the companies involved in the consortium exploiting Sudan's oil confirmed that the pipeline had been breached, blasting a crater which had filled with oil.

He said experts and equipment were at the site, and it was expected that the damage would be repaired and pumping resumed within two or three days.

Given the political situation in Sudan, the consortium clearly accepted a degree of risk when it began the export operation.

The spokesman said the experience gained from repairing the damage from this first attack would help speed up the response to any future disruption.

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