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Amid Signs of Turmoil, South Sudan Says Oil Will Flow

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) -- Following a lengthy Cabinet meeting, South Sudan's government spokesman said Wednesday that the country will continue to export oil through Sudan and that there had been only a temporary slowdown in production.

An official in South Sudan's oil ministry earlier told The Associated Press that Sudan had blocked the export of South Sudanese oil. The official insisted he not be identified because he is not authorized to release the information. But government spokesman Barnabas Marial Benjamin said later that it was only a temporary slowdown.

"It is not really a shutdown," Benjamin said, before explaining a technical process behind storage procedures and valve openings. "But as we speak now P2 is going to be opened later on this afternoon and the oil will continue to flow to reach Port Sudan."

Benjamin downplayed the summoning of the Chinese envoy to South Sudan over recent oil issues. South Sudan's oil industry sector is dominated by Chinese companies.

"The summoning of the Chinese envoy was actually to explain to them about the temporarily non-turning on of the valve at P2. They are stakeholders in this process and so there is need to inform them that the valve has not yet opened," Benjamin said.

Benjamin said South Sudan's oil minister Stephen Dhieu Dau is going to Khartoum later Wednesday to meet his Sudanese counterpart to clear the issue.

Sudanese Oil Minister Awad Ahmed al-Jazz denied that Khartoum has blocked South Sudan pipelines. He told state news agency SUNA Wednesday said that South Sudanese oil was flowing normally through Sudan toward the ports of export on the Red Sea.

While speaking at a police graduation ceremony in Juba on Monday, South Sudan President Salva Kiir warned there could be an oil shutdown like the one that ended nearly two months ago. He said Juba was still working with Sudan "in a diplomatic way."

South Sudan must export all its oil through pipelines owned by Sudan. South Sudan resumed oil production in April this year, 16 months after a shutdown caused by disagreements with Sudan over oil transit fees.

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