February 24, 2015 / 9:09 PM / 3 years ago

U.S. prepares draft threatening U.N. sanctions on South Sudan

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States on Tuesday distributed a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that would establish a sanctions regime for war-torn South Sudan, but stopped short of proposing specific individuals to be blacklisted or an arms embargo.

The core of the draft proposal, obtained by Reuters, is a threat to impose a worldwide asset freeze and travel ban for anyone undermining security or interfering with the peace process after March 5 and April 1 deadlines set by the East African IGAD bloc.

IGAD has so far been unsuccessful in its attempts to mediate an end to the civil war, in which at least 10,000 people have been killed and 1.5 million internally displaced.

The draft resolution, which U.S. officials said they planned on circulating to the full council on Tuesday, warns that future U.N. sanctions steps could include both an arms embargo and the blacklisting of individuals. It is not clear when it will be put to a Security Council vote.

Conflict has been rife in South Sudan since December 2013 when fighting erupted in the capital Juba between soldiers allied to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to his former deputy, Riek Machar.

Asked why the resolution did not call for an arms embargo, a U.S. official told reporters on Tuesday the idea was to take an “incremental approach” and gradually increase pressure on the warring factions.

Washington first said it was preparing a South Sudan sanctions resolution on Nov. 5. One of the reasons for the delay, council diplomats said, was a dispute over whether to call for an embargo to stop the flow of weapons to both sides in the conflict.

The United States, Russia and China were initially opposed to the idea of an arms embargo, while European and other council members were in favor of it, the diplomats said. Washington, they noted, had feared an arms embargo would favor the rebels and put the government at a disadvantage.

It was not immediately clear how Russia and China would react to the draft and if they would demand amendments before putting it to a vote.

“A lot of people were speaking in support of a stronger stance by the Security Council towards the leaders who are ... so disregarding of the suffering of the people of South Sudan,” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters about a council discussion on Monday.

The United States last year imposed unilateral sanctions on two military officers on opposite sides of the violence.

Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Alan Crosby

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