UN support sought for South Sudan regional force

UNITED NATIONS (AP) " A proposed U.N. resolution would establish a 4,000-strong regional force to provide security in South Sudan's capital and deter attacks on U.N. sites where over 30,000 civilians have sought refuge from the fighting.

The draft resolution, circulated by the United States and obtained Monday by The Associated Press, would make the regional force part of the U.N. peacekeeping force in South Sudan and raise its strength to 17,000 soldiers and international police.

The African regional bloc known as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, or IGAD, announced late Friday that South Sudan's government has accepted the deployment of a regional force, reversing its previous rejection.

The draft resolution calls for a vote on an arms embargo against the country if Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reports that South Sudan's authorities have blocked deployment of the regional force.

A civil war in South Sudan began in December 2013 when government forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, battled rebels led by his former deputy Riek Machar, a Nuer. Tens of thousands of people were killed in the fighting and over 2 million people were displaced.

Kiir and Machar signed a peace deal in August 2015 under which Machar was to be first vice president, but fighting continued and last month hundreds of people were killed when army factions loyal to the two men clashed in the capital Juba.

Machar fled the capital into hiding shortly after the fighting began and Kiir replaced him with Taban Deng Gai, who had acted as the rebels' chief negotiator during peace talks. Mahboub Maalim, the head of IGAD, said Friday that Deng Gai has agreed to step down if Machar returns to Juba.

The draft resolution would demand that South Sudan's leaders immediately end the fighting and implement the cease-fire and peace deal.

It would extend the mandate of the U.N. force, which expires Aug. 12, until Dec. 15.

There was criticism that some members of the force, known as UNMISS, did not act robustly to protect civilians when U.N. sites came under attack last month.

The draft resolution stresses that UNMISS' mandate includes authority to use "all necessary means" to protect U.N. personnel and installations and to take "proactive" measures to patrol and protect civilians from threats. It emphasizes that protecting civilians must be given priority in decisions about the use of peacekeepers.

The proposed resolution says the regional force should have its own commander, reporting to the UNMISS commander, and distinct priority tasks " to facilitate conditions "for safe and free movement" in and out of Juba, protect the airport, and "promptly and effectively" stop any attack against U.N. sites where civilians have taken refuge and against U.N. personnel.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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