ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - The chief mediator between South Sudan's warring rivals said he was not eager to back penalties against them, even though fighting had broken out again and the United States was trying to impose international sanctions in the conflict-torn country.
Fighting erupted in December in South Sudan, which declared independence from Sudan in 2011, after months of political tension between President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy and rival, Riek Machar.
Seyoum Mesfin, chief mediator of the East African bloc the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), said peace was more important than sanctions.
"We are not interested in punishing, we are only interested in achieving peace," Seyoum said.
However, the U.S. delegation to the United Nations has told members of the Security Council it will circulate a draft resolution to establish a "mechanism for targeting individuals" undermining South Sudan's political stability and abusing human rights, an official told Reuters on Tuesday.
Australia's U.N. ambassador, Gary Quinlan, president of the
Security Council this month, said his country and several other council members back the idea of making an arms embargo part of any South Sudan sanctions regime. He declined to comment on the
timing of any sanctions.
Seyoum spoke as leaders of IGAD member states gathered in
the Ethiopian capital to settle the details of a planned interim period before. Mediators have proposed setting up a transitional government with a new post of prime minister for 30 months. Elections would be held two months before the 30 months ended.
Rebels have balked at one provision: The president, expected to be Kiir, would be allowed to run for office again; the prime minister, who may be Machar, might not be.
The heads of state gathering came days after government troops and rebels clashed over the South Sudanese oil hub of
Bentiu, with both sides claiming they had seized the town in
The conflict has killed more than 10,000 people in the world's newest state, caused over 1 million to flee and driven the country of 11 million closer to famine.
A ceasefire signed in January has been broken frequently and peace talks have often stalled. Bot the European Union and the U.S. have imposed sanctions on commanders on the two sides for violating the ceasefire.
Editing by Duncan Miriri, Larry King