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US asks UN to back South Sudan regional force

Refugees fleeing South Sudan to Uganda. Photo via @yaxle
Refugees fleeing South Sudan to Uganda. Photo via @yaxle

The United States has asked the UN Security Council to send a 4,000-strong regional force to South Sudan’s capital of Juba and to impose an arms embargo if the government blocks the deployment.

A draft resolution presented to the council would establish the regional protection force and authorize it to “use all necessary means” to provide security in Juba and deter attacks against UN bases, according to the text obtained by AFP on Monday.

Under the proposed measure, the council would vote on imposing an arms embargo on South Sudan if UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reports that there are “impediments” to the deployment.

Ban would provide a detailed report within 14 days of the adoption of the resolution, according to the draft.

The regional force would come under the command of the UN mission known as UNMISS, which has faced criticism for failing to protect tens of thousands of civilians sheltering in its bases.

The draft resolution would task the new force with protecting the airport, ensuring free movement in Juba and authorize it to “promptly and effectively” deter any attacks against UN personnel or premises.

It urges countries in the region to contribute troops to ensure that the new force can be on the ground “as soon as possible,” according to the draft text.

A vote on the measure could take place this week.

Juba was rocked by several days of heavy fighting in early July between the government forces of President Salva Kiir and those loyal to ex-rebel chief Riek Machar, the latest upsurge in two and a half years of war.

Nearly 300 people died in the violence and two Chinese peacekeepers were killed in an attack on a UN base, where thousands of civilians rushed for safety.

Ban had called for an arms embargo and targeted sanctions following the flareup in violence. Late last month, he told the council that South Sudan remained “on the brink of an abyss.”

African leaders last month approved a plan to dispatch a regional force to South Sudan and on Friday, the East African bloc IGAD said it had secured agreement from the government in Juba for the deployment.

The draft resolution would also extend the mandate of UNMISS until December 15 2016.

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