Oct 9, 12:32 PM EDT

US urges UN sanctions in South Sudan

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US urges UN sanctions in South Sudan

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- A U.S. diplomat on Thursday urged the United Nations to sanction individuals in South Sudan who are accused of blocking peace in the world's newest country.

In a speech in Washington, Donald Booth, the U.S. envoy to South Sudan and Sudan, did not suggest individuals to be targeted by penalties. But he blamed South Sudan's leaders for what he described as squandering an opportunity for peace and prosperity when the country broke away in Sudan in 2011.

Booth said it was up to the U.N. Security Council to decide what new sanctions to impose, but did not rule out the potential of an arms embargo, as the U.S. and European allies have embraced.

The U.S. has been trying to help broker a cease fire in South Sudan, where forces respectively loyal to President Salva Kiir and his rival, former Vice President Riek Machar, have been fighting for power for nearly a year.

The U.S. already has sanctioned several military commanders and Booth said more people could be penalized soon.

Booth said neighboring African nations appear to more supportive of sanctions than they have in the past, given the meager progress in peace talks that have languished for months.

"The patience with the process is wearing thin," he said at the Atlantic Council.

Booth also noted what he said were "dire" economic and political problems facing neighboring Sudan, where the government has promised to initiate a national dialogue to ease tensions. He said the status of the dialogue remained uncertain, and urged the government of President Omar al-Bashir to delay elections set for next April to "allow for a meaningful political process."

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