By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council warned on Wednesday it is ready to consider "appropriate measures" against warring parties in South Sudan if they do not stop the violence in the world's youngest nation and negotiate a transitional government.
The United States and the European Union have already imposed sanctions on military leaders on both sides. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power has urged the Security Council to also consider imposing targeted sanctions.
South Sudan has been in political turmoil since President Salva Kiir sacked his deputy Riek Machar last year, triggering a conflict that reopened deep ethnic tensions in the world's youngest country, which only won independence from Sudan in 2011.
Kiir comes from the dominant Dinka ethnic group, while Machar, now a rebel leader, is from another major tribe, the Nuer.
The Security Council was "alarmed by information that both parties were recruiting and acquiring weapons in violation of the agreement of June 10," said Rwandan Deputy U.N. Ambassador Olivier Nduhungirehe, president of the council for July.
He said the 15-member council "stands ready to consider appropriate measures in consultation with countries of the region against those who will not implement the commitment to peace in South Sudan."
The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) - the East African bloc brokering peace talks - said on June 10 that both Kiir and Machar had agreed to end the fighting, complete all peace negotiations within 60 days, and form a transitional government of national unity.
The fighting in South Sudan erupted in mid-December after months of political tensions sparked by the sacking of Machar. Thousands have died in the conflict and more than 1.3 million people have been driven from their homes.
The U.N. Security Council almost doubled the mandated number of peacekeepers in late December to 12,500 troops and 1,323 police, but so far only some 8,100 troops are on the ground. Peacekeepers are sheltering 100,000 civilians at U.N. bases.
U.N. aid chief Valerie Amos briefed the Security Council on the situation in South Sudan and neighboring Sudan on Wednesday. The United Nations has warned that millions of people could be on the brink of starvation because violence has disrupted the planting season.
The council expressed "deep concern about the deterioration of the situation in South Sudan, including in its humanitarian dimension, which has put about one million people under threat of famine," Nduhungirehe said.