World Bulletin/News Desk
South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar said on Friday that government threats to try him for treason were an attempt to scupper peace talks, and called for the president to resign, in his first face-to-face interview since violence erupted.
The government said this week that former vice president Machar and six of his allies should face the charge, accusing him of trying to launch a coup after fighting broke out between rival groups of soldiers in the capital mid-December.
Machar denied the accusation and took refuge in remote Jonglei state as clashes between forces loyal to him and government troops spread across the oil-producing nation, killing thousands.
"I am not aware of why we should face those charges for an alleged coup that never happened," Machar told Reuters in his bush hideout. "(It) is another attempt to stop peace talks."
Both sides agreed to negotiations in neighbouring Ethiopia following diplomatic pressure from regional powers, the United Nations and major donors including Washington. They agreed to a ceasefire last week, but violence has continued.
"It would be best for Kiir to resign. We are due for elections in 2015. Before the elections there would be an interim government," Machar said.
S. Sudan, UN mission lock horns over IDPs deaths
The government of South Sudan and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) locked horns on Friday over what Juba described as "alarming death rate" of treatable diseases inside the UN compound in the capital.
"Juba Teaching Hospital has been receiving a lot of dead bodies from the UNMISS compound over this last month," Information Minister Michael Makuei Leuth told reporters.
He said that 63 internally displaced people (IDPs) who had sought refuge at the UN compound in Juba had died during the month of January.
Leuth stressed that the dead were mainly children and women who had died of malaria, diarrhea and malnourishment.
"This report was presented to the council of ministers today by the Director of Juba Teaching Hospital," said the minister.
"It is an alarming rate," he insisted.
The minister called on UNMISS to allow government medical teams to rescue civilians inside its compound.
UNMISS spokesperson Ariane Quentier, for her part, said she still has to crosscheck the figure of 63 people said to have died in January with the health department.
"What I can say is that people died just as they die anywhere but it is not as alarming as some officials are saying," she told Anadolu Agency.
"People came to us during this crisis because they know we can help them and our workers are doing everything possible to make their life easy," Quentier insisted.
"Our medical teams are also working always to help the sick people."
Concluding a three-day visit to the country, Amos Valerie, UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, said Wednesday that some 3.7 million people in South Sudan were now severely food insecure, while more than 820,000 had been displaced.Last Mod: 01 Şubat 2014, 09:41