S Sudan`s Kiir ready for talks with Machar `without preconditions`: US
South Sudan`s President Salva Kiir has said he is ready for talks with rival Riek Machar "without preconditions" to end the violence there, the US special envoy to the country said Monday.
Washington: South Sudan`s President Salva Kiir has said he is ready for talks with rival Riek Machar "without preconditions" to end the violence there, the US special envoy to the country said Monday.
Meanwhile, the US military deployed a special Marine Corps unit and aircraft to the Horn of Africa to prepare for possible further evacuations of Americans from South Sudan, where violence has raged for a week.
Given the intensity of the fighting, the US government dispatched Donald Booth, who is the special envoy for both South Sudan and Sudan, to Juba, where he met Kiir.
"I had a frank and open discussion with President Salva Kiir," Booth told reporters in Washington via telephone from Juba.
"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."
Booth said he met with a group of 11 senior figures in the ruling Sudan People`s Liberation Movement "who remain detained in Juba."
Kiir`s government last week announced the arrest of 10 people, many of them former ministers, in connection with an investigation of an alleged coup attempt led by Machar against Kiir.
"I can report that they are secure and well taken care of," Booth said.
"These individuals communicated to me their desire and their readiness to play a constructive role in ending the crisis through peaceful political dialogue and national reconciliation."
Machar has accused Kiir of carrying out a vicious purge of his rivals. Vowing to oust Kiir, his forces have since seized the town of Bor, capital of the powder-keg eastern Jonglei state, as well as the town of Bentiu, capital of crucial oil-producing Unity state.
South Sudan`s army on Monday was poised for a major offensive against rebel forces, as the country slid towards civil war despite international peace efforts.
The UN Security Council launched emergency talks on the situation later Monday. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for the reinforcement of the UN mission in South Sudan.
Ban has asked the Council to approve the deployment of an additional 5,500 soldiers, which would bring the total number to about 12,000. He also wants about 400 extra police to back up the 700 already in the country.
"Washington is now in the process of looking at the request and evaluating how we can be helpful and how we can do that as quickly as possible," a senior US official said on condition of anonymity.
After the evacuation of nearly 400 Americans from South Sudan in recent days, the Pentagon redeployed cargo planes, helicopters and 150 members of a special Marine Corps unit to Djibouti, the site of a major US base, two defense officials told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The Marine Corps "special purpose air-ground task force" includes Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, C-130 cargo planes, aerial refueling tankers and infantry.
About 30 Americans remain at the US embassy in Juba, where "non-emergency" staff were already flown out in recent days.
US President Barack Obama has warned South Sudan that any military coup would mean an end to diplomatic and economic support from the United States and its allies.