UK & World News

  • 24 December 2013, 5:15

US Marines Poised As South Sudan Unrest Grows

The US is moving additional troops to Africa as South Sudan seems to be sliding towards civil war.

South Sudan's army was poised for a major offensive against rebel forces, the president said on Monday.

Expectations of an upsurge in fighting came as the United Nations warned that the situation in the world's youngest nation was fast unravelling, with hundreds of thousands of civilians now at risk.

The commander of the US military's Africa Command decided to move up to 150 Marines from Spain to a base in Djibouti in the event the US State Department requests additional assistance, a senior US defence official said.

A defence official speaking on the condition of anonymity said the extra forces moving to Djibouti will bring the total US troops in the region to 150, with 10 aircraft.

Additionally, UN chief Ban Ki-moon has said he would urge the Security Council to boost the number of personnel serving in the UN mission in South Sudan.

Hoping to beef up the mission's protection, the UN secretary general called for "additional troops, police and logistical assets," although he did not specify numbers.

The UN Security Council will hold emergency consultations on the situation in South Sudan later Monday, the French mission to the world body said.

In South Sudan's capital Juba the UN and aid agencies are helping 20,000 refugees in two camps and have distributed food to 7,000 refugees seeking shelter at a UN base in Bentiu.

Rebel forces under former vice president Riek Machar have taken control of Bor and Bentiu and the remaining South Sudanese army loyal to President Salva Kiir is readying an assault.

Mr Machar told Reuters on Monday he was ready for dialogue to end the conflict.

Mr Machar said he had spoken on Monday to Ethiopia's foreign minister, leader of a team of African mediators trying to end more than a week of fighting that has killed hundreds of people and driven thousands from their homes.

Mr Machar has said he aspires to be president. When asked if he would demand that post in any talks, he said: "Well, that needs to be agreed. The dialogue is not a dialogue of the deaf for one party, it is the dialogue of two parties in conflict."

Mr Kiir has said he is ready for talks with MrMachar "without preconditions," the US special envoy to the country, Donald Booth, said on Monday.

"I had a frank and open discussion with President Salva Kiir," Booth, in Juba, told reporters in Washington. "Importantly, President Kiir committed to me that he was ready to begin talks with Riek Machar to end the crisis without preconditions as soon as his counterpart is willing."

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