South Sudanese troops are readying to assault the rebel-held town of Bor, the president said Monday, after the evacuation of foreign nationals from the capital of the powder keg eastern Jonglei state.
The army is "now ready to move to Bor," President Salva Kiir told parliament, adding that the counter-attack to wrest back the town after it was captured on Wednesday was delayed until US had airlifted citizens out.
Fighting has gripped South Sudan for more than a week, after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar, who was fired from the government in July, of attempting a coup.
Machar denied the claim and accused Kiir of carrying out a vicious purge of his rivals. Vowing to oust Kiir, his forces have since seized the town of Bor, located just 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Juba, as well as the town of Bentiu, capital of crucial oil-producing Unity state.
"One of the conditions of Dr. Riek (Machar) is that I have to resign," Kiir added. "This is not new to me."
There are both ethnic and political dimensions to the fighting, as troops loyal to Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, battle forces backing Machar, a Nuer.
Kiir accused Machar of mobilizing a civil war-era militia force of ethnic Nuer gunmen called the "White Army", who earned a grim reputation for brutal raids on rival communities during the 1983-2005 conflict.
Kiir repeated his offer to hold talks with Machar, adding that a delegation of foreign ministers from neighboring nations who visited last week -- under the auspices of the regional bloc, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) -- had offered to mediate.
"IGAD has offered to mediate... but I told them that Dr. Riek has to come to the table without any precondition," Kiir said.
IGAD members played key roles in pushing forward the 2005 deal that ended Sudan's two-decades long civil war with the south.
"This Christmas will not be like the previous ones because we will be mourning our dear lost ones in this senseless war," Kiir added.
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