U.N. threatens sanctions against South Sudan rivals

The Security Council expressed “deep concern” over the deteriorating situation in South Sudan, since fighting broke out last December

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The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday threatened sanctions against the warring parties in South Sudan and warned that about one million people in the conflict-torn nation are threatened with famine.

The council's tough message followed a briefing by U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos who warned of "worrying food insecurity" not only in South Sudan but across the border in the Sudanese regions of South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur which are also engulfed in conflict.

"Given the dire situation in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur and the unfolding humanitarian disaster in South Sudan, it is clear that urgent action is needed now," Amos told reporters.

She appealed to the council and anyone with political influence on the parties to take measures to ensure immediate access for humanitarian aid. She also asked the council to call on the warring parties in South Kordofan and Blue Nile to allow polio vaccinations.

South Sudan is a largely Christian nation that broke off from the Muslim-dominated Sudan after a 2011 referendum.

Security Council members expressed "deep concern" about the security and humanitarian situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile where the SPLM-North rebel group, which is backed by South Sudan, has been fighting Sudanese government forces. The council urged the warring parties to stop fighting and engage in a dialogue without preconditions.

Council members also expressed "deep concern" about the deteriorating situation in South Sudan, where fighting broke out in December after President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, accused former vice-president Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer, of trying to oust him in a coup. That sparked months of ethnic attacks and failed cease-fires.

The council said it was "alarmed by information that both parties were recruiting and acquiring weapons" in violation of the latest cease-fire agreement between Kiir and Machar on June 10.

"My greatest fear," Amos said, "is that because of the conflict, because the agreement reached is being broken every day and the fighting is continuing, we will see a very quick deterioration of the food security situation, with the potential for a famine being declared very soon."

The Security Council has discussed sanctions, an arms embargo and a referral of the South Sudan situation to the International Criminal Court as ways to apply pressure on the warring sides.

Council members said Wednesday they "stand ready to consider appropriate measures in consultation with countries of the region against those who will not implement their commitment to peace in South Sudan." The words "appropriate measures" are U.N. code for sanctions.

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