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Despite reservations, U.N. votes to pull Sudan peacekeepers

By the CNN Wire Staff
Southern Sudanese wave the national flag of the world's newest country, South Sudan, on Saturday.
Southern Sudanese wave the national flag of the world's newest country, South Sudan, on Saturday.
  • Rebels are still fighting government troops in the south of newly divided Sudan
  • The mandate for the U.N. Mission in Sudan expired Saturday
  • U.S. and British diplomats supported the U.N. withdrawal with "regret"

United Nations (CNN) -- Despite ongoing fighting near the border of newly independent South Sudan, the U.N. Security Council voted to withdraw peacekeepers from southern provinces of Sudan on Monday after Sudan's government refused to let them stay.

The U.S. and British ambassadors to the United Nations said the vote was taken with "regret" and urged the government in Khartoum to reconsider. In the meantime, however, the Security Council called for the 10,000-strong U.N. Mission in Sudan to be redeployed to newly created U.N. missions in South Sudan and the disputed border territory of Abyei.

"Civilians continue to suffer the impact of conflict, including aerial bombardment by Sudanese armed forces, and other abuses, reportedly including extra-judicial killings, forced displacement and arbitrary arrest and detentions," British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said in a statement on the vote. "We unreservedly condemn the ongoing violence."

South Sudan became the world's newest nation on Saturday, the same day the U.N. Mission in Sudan mandate expired. But Lyall Grant and U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said a peacekeeping mission is still needed in the north because of ongoing fighting between government troops and rebels in the province of Southern Kordofan.

Rice said the Security Council is willing to extend the 10,000-strong, Nigerian-led mission if Sudan agrees, adding, "It is in their interest to do so." She also urged Sudanese officials and the rebel Sudanese People's Liberation Movement-North to resume cease-fire talks.

"We continue to be deeply concerned about the fighting in Southern Kordofan, the displacement of civilians, and the ensuing humanitarian crisis," Rice said in a written statement.

South Sudan became fully independent on Saturday, splitting Africa's largest nation in two. South Sudan voted for independence in January as part of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war.

That conflict, which killed an estimated 2 million people, pitted Sudan's Muslim Arab-dominated north against the black Christian and animist south. U.N. members are expected to welcome South Sudan to the world body later this week.

CNN's Richard Roth, Mick Krever and Matthew Vann contributed to this report.