UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council urgently called Friday for South Sudan's feuding political leaders to resolve a mounting crisis and threatened targeted sanctions against perpetrators of ethnic violence.
A presidential statement approved by all 15 council members pressed President Salva Kiir and former vice president and current rebel leader Riek Machar to implement a cease-fire and form a transitional government by Sunday. It did not name any potential targets of sanctions.
The sharp dispute stems in part from when Kiir accused Machar in December of trying to oust him in a coup, which unleashed months of ethnic attacks and failed cease-fires.
In recent days, an outbreak of violence has occurred along the Sudan-South Sudan border and at least six South Sudanese aid workers were killed by a militia hunting the Nuer ethnic group.
All of the murdered aid workers are members of the Nuer, to which Machar belongs.
Some observers believe the violence threatens to pull Sudan and its rebel groups into South Sudan's civil war.
The Security Council, which plans to visit South Sudan next week, also warned that a "catastrophic" lack of food could lead to famine. A senior U.N. official said this week that the humanitarian crisis has put almost 4 million people at risk of going hungry and another some 50,000 children at risk of dying of acute malnutrition.
South Sudan is a largely Christian nation that broke off from Muslim-dominated Sudan after a 2011 referendum.