JUBA, South Sudan -- South Sudan's opposition leader Riek Machar warned Sunday that the country could return to civil war if a coalition government is formed by a Nov. 12 deadline and he asked for another monthslong delay for the crucial step in a fragile peace deal.
Machar made an impassioned plea to a visiting United Nations Security Council delegation that met with him and President Salva Kiir to urge speedier progress in pulling the country out of a five-year civil war that killed almost 400,000 people.
"Suppose we form a government on the 12th, you know what's going to happen? The cease-fire we've been enjoying for over a year will erupt," said the visiting Machar, whose opposition has said he won't return to South Sudan for good until security arrangements are in place.
The previous attempt at Kiir and Machar sharing power ended in renewed fighting and Machar fleeing the country on foot in 2016. The issues being discussed today are the same ones that led to that earlier failure, the opposition leader said.
But the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Kelly Craft, said the council was "disappointed" by Machar's warnings. The U.S. has said it would reevaluate its relationship with South Sudan if next month's deadline isn't met.
The Security Council still wants the Nov. 12 deadline met, South Sudan government spokesman Michael Makuei said: "No change of schedule nor change of program."
The opposition, however, now wants a three-month delay, Makuei said.
One key outstanding issue is security. Machar and Kiir were told Sunday that it would take at least three months to train at least 41,500 fighters and troops into a unified national army along with a 3,000-member VIP protection force.
South Sudan's government has said the international community should help fund that process.
The Security Council "is of the view that nothing is impossible, nothing is unsurmountable," said South Africa's ambassador to the U.N., Jerry Matthews Matjila. The remaining issues can be discussed by an inclusive government, he said.
A Section on 10/21/2019
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