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Troops needed to shore up shaky South Sudan peace: US
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) May 14, 2014


US Marines deploy to Italy due to Libya threat: official
Washington (AFP) May 14, 2014 - The US military has moved a team of marines from Spain to southern Italy as a precautionary step in case the US embassy in Libya comes under threat, officials said Wednesday.

The contingent of nearly 200 marines is part of a newly-created "crisis response" force set up in the wake of a deadly attack on a US diplomatic outpost in the Libyan city of Benghazi in 2012.

The State Department has requested the move amid growing concerns over violence in Libya, but there was no imminent plan to evacuate the embassy in Tripoli, an administration official said.

"We're seeing a deterioration of the security situation there," the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

The team, equipped with four tilt-rotor Osprey aircraft as well as two KC-130 refueling tankers, arrived at the US naval air station in Sigonella in Italy on Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren told reporters.

The deployment was ordered as a "prudent measure" due to "the general unrest in Northern Africa," Warren said.

He declined to say if the move was focused on a particular country.

The US troops were drawn from a force in Moron, Spain, the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response unit. The force helped evacuate staff from the US embassy in South Sudan last year.

Libya's central government has struggled to assert its authority over the vast, mostly desert country, which is effectively ruled by a patchwork of local militias and awash with weapons.

In March, the authorities acknowledged for the first time the existence of "terrorist groups" in Libya, particularly in Benghazi and in Derna, an eastern city with a history of Islamist militancy.

The United States called Wednesday for an immediate deployment of African troops to safeguard a fragile peace deal reached last week by warring sides in Sudan.

The ceasefire agreement, signed last week in Addis Ababa, was the fruit of weeks of mounting international pressure and shuttle diplomacy.

But fighting broke out again on Sunday, just hours after the accord was signed by President Salva Kiir and rebel chief Riek Machar.

It was the second time in the five-month conflict that a truce failed to stick.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, said troops can help ensure that peace holds this time.

"The signing of the peace agreement is only the first step," she said during an online press conference.

"We have to work closely with the leaders of the region to make sure that we get IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development in Eastern Africa) troops on the ground, who will be put in the position so that they can monitor the agreement and ensure that anyone who is involved in breaking that agreement will be held responsible," she said.

Washington is seeking a UN resolution "that will allow these troops to deploy as quickly as possible," Thomas-Greenfield said.

"This is one of our highest agenda items right now in dealing with South Sudan," the US diplomat said.

"This is what the people of South Sudan deserve. They fought for 30 years for their independence."

Thomas-Greenfield warned of possible dire consequences should the shaky peace deal fall apart.

"There is a famine that is looming if this fighting does not stop. More than 900,000 people have been forced from their homes," she said.

"We have to work to ensure that the agreement take root and that we start moving forward to provide a peaceful solution for the people of South Sudan."

The war in the world's youngest nation has claimed thousands -- possibly tens of thousands -- of lives, with more than 1.2 million people forced to flee their homes.

The United States, a key backer of South Sudan's push for independence from Khartoum, has poured hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the country since it split from Sudan in 2011. It lobbied intensely for the peace deal.

US Secretary of State John Kerry at the beginning of May was in Juba, where he actively lobbied for the peace deal, meeting with President Kiir and speaking by telephone with Machar.

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