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US warns South Sudan minister about sanctions

Created: 12/03/2014 6:21 PM
By: By CARA ANNA

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.S. on Wednesday warned South Sudan's foreign minister that United Nations sanctions could be the punishment for people who stand in the way of that country achieving peace after a year of conflict.

At a meeting between Barnaba Benjamin and U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, a deputy ambassador, David Pressman, emphasized that the U.S. is working on a Security Council draft resolution that would authorize sanctions against individuals who threaten South Sudan's peace and security, a U.S. official said.

The resolution is meant to pressure President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar to reach a peace agreement after multiple cease-fires have failed. Fighting between their supporters has killed thousands in the oil-rich East African country, and 1.9 million have fled. About 100,000 people remain camped at nine U.N. peacekeeping bases across the country in an effort to escape the violence.

The U.S. official spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was private.

The U.S. has mentioned the draft resolution in the past, but a face-to-face warning among senior diplomats carries more weight.

A call and email to South Sudan's mission to the U.N. were not immediately answered Wednesday evening.

Last month, South Sudan's U.N. ambassador, Francis Deng, told the U.N. Security Council that targeted sanctions likely would "harden positions toward confrontation rather than cooperation," and he insisted that his government remains optimistic that a peace deal is possible. He also blamed the slow pace of peace talks on the "frequent adjournment" by East African regional mediators.

On Thursday, the council again will discuss the conflict in the world's youngest country, which broke off from Muslim-dominated Sudan after a 2011 referendum.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the international community has grown impatient with the failure of South Sudan's leadership to stop the months of fighting.

(Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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