New violence in South Sudan despite peace deal

Juba - South Sudan's army and rebels have begun fighting again in northern Unity State, two days after President Salva Kiir signed a long-awaited peace deal, a government spokesperson said on Friday.

It was difficult to ascertain which side started the fighting, presidential spokesperson Ateny Wek Ateny told dpa.

Kiir signed the agreement on Wednesday, but also expressed reservations about the deal, which aims to end a 20-month military conflict. It had been approved by rebel leader Riek Machar the week before.

Machar's spokesperson, Dickson Gatluak, said his troops were on the "defensive" against the government, suggesting the army initiated the latest round of violence. Infantry forces attacked rebel forces with heavy machineguns and gunboats in various locations of Unity State, according to Gatluak.

Kiir signed the pact only six days after the United States circulated a draft resolution at the UN Security Council that would have imposed an arms embargo and additional sanctions on South Sudan unless a ceasefire was signed.

In New York, the UN Security Council issued a statement on Friday welcoming the peace agreement, however, also noting that it would be swift to impose an arms embargo and targeted sanctions if the pact is not implemented.

"The Security Council calls upon the parties to adhere to the permanent ceasefire immediately ... and expresses its readiness to consider appropriate measures to ensure full implementation of the agreement," the statement said.

The agreement foresees a transitional power-sharing and security arrangement to end the fighting, which has killed tens of thousands and displaced more than 2.2 million people.

The document also stipulates the framework for a permanent ceasefire, humanitarian assistance and reconstruction as well as institutional reforms.

A string of previous ceasefires failed to stop the fighting that broke out when a power struggle between Kiir and Machar turned violent mid-December 2013.

More than 1.6 million people have been internally displaced and more than 600 000 have fled to neighbouring states, while about 200 000 have sought refuge in UN bases, according to the United Nations. About 4.6 million people could face a famine.