August 29, 2015 / 4:34 PM / 2 years ago

South Sudan rivals trade accusations over new fighting

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (R) is congratulated by Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta (L) and Ethiopia's Prime Minsiter Hailemariam Desalegn (C) after signing a peace agreement in South Sudan's capital Juba, August 26, 2015.Jok Solomun

JUBA (Reuters) - South Sudan's rebels accused government troops on Saturday of launching attacks on their forces in the north of the country after a ceasefire that is part of a peace deal came into effect, a charge the government denied.

It was the latest exchange of accusations since President Salva Kiir signed the pact on Wednesday that aims to end 20 months of conflict in the world's newest nation.

The U.N. Security Council on Friday welcomed the agreement but warned that it remained ready to impose an arms embargo if the deal collapsed.Even as he signed the agreement on Wednesday, Kiir said rebels were attacking government forces, while rebels have made counter charges. Since fighting erupted in December 2013, several ceasefire deals have been agreed and swiftly fallen apart.

Rebel leader Riek Machar's forces said on Saturday that their positions in Adok, a Nile river port in oil-rich Unity state, came under assault by government troops in gunboats. It also said rebels were attacked in Malakal in the Upper Nile region, another oil state.

"That is not true. Government forces are under instructions to remain in their barracks and to fire only in self defense," presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told Reuters, adding that rebel militias were behind any offensive action.

The rival sides also accused each other of attacks on Friday.

The conflict erupted in December 2013 after a power struggle between Kiir and Machar, his former deputy. Fighting has reopened ethnic fault lines between Kiir's Dinka and Machar's Nuer clan.

Fighting has killed thousands of people and driven more than 2.2 million from their homes, with many fleeing to neighboring states. Many in the nation of 11 million people depend on food aid to survive.

Writing by Aaron Maasho; Editing by Edmund Blair/Ruth Pitchford

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