South Sudan Rebel Leader Sets out Conditions for Talks
Khartoum – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sought urgently on Monday to nearly double the size of the U.N. peacekeeping force in South Sudan, while rebel leader RiekMachar and President SalvaKiir both indicated they were ready to talk to try to end a deepening conflict that has killed hundreds of people. A government official, however, said South Sudan would not meet Machar’s demand that detained opposition leaders be released.
Ban asked the U.N. Security Council to send 5,500 more peacekeepers to South Sudan as soon as possible to protect civilians from the growing violence in the world’s newest country. There are now some 6,700 U.N. troops and 670 police officers making up the U.N. force in South Sudan. The 15-member council met to discuss the crisis and is due to vote on a resolution approving the increase in peacekeeping troops on Tuesday.
“As long as these two individuals are at loggerheads, refusing to sit down with one another, innocent people are being killed on nothing other than ethnic grounds in South Sudan,” said Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She told reporters that Donald Booth, the U.S. special envoy to South Sudan, had met with the detained South Sudanese opposition leaders whose release Machar was demanding and found them “secure and well and very open to ending the crisis through dialogue and reconciliation.”
Ban told reporters earlier that some 45,000 civilians were seeking protection at U.N. bases in South Sudan. Booth, who met with Kiir in Juba on Monday, said the president had committed to opening talks with Machar but South Sudan Information Minister Michael Makuei told Reuters there would be no release of detained opposition leaders. “There is no way we will release anybody who is accused of a coup d’etat,” he said. (Reuters)