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US Ambassador to South Sudan Denies Regime Change Accusation

FILE - Demonstrators gathered in front of the White House in Washington D.C. to protest the ongoing war in South Sudan, April 16, 2018.

The new U.S. ambassador to South Sudan is denying oft-repeated accusations from the Kiir administration that the United States wants regime change in South Sudan; but, Thomas Hushek says the U.S. wants to see peace restored after four-and-a-half years of fighting.

In an exclusive interview Wednesday with VOA's South Sudan in Focus radio program, Ambassador Hushek said the U.S. wanted to see an end to violence and continued to stand behind the people of South Sudan.

“We would like to see change in the behavior of the leaders both in the government and out of the government in order to aim and achieve that peace,” he said.

To achieve that goal, Hushek said, the U.S. would utilize techniques that include targeted sanctions along with positive techniques such as engaging South Sudan's people and leaders.

South Sudan’s information minister, Michael Makuei, has often accused the United States of wanting to see the government in Juba change hands.

“For us as a government, this is not something new. This is the continuation of a policy of a regime change. So to us it is not an issue,” he told reporters in Juba late last month.

The U.N. Security Council recently renewed sanctions for an additional 45 days on South Sudan following a U.S.-led effort.

The council, however, delayed a decision for 30 days on imposing travel bans and asset freezes on six South Sudanese leaders accused of impeding peace. The council said the move is still on the table pending a review of the parties’ commitment to observe a cease-fire agreement which they signed last December.

If Washington does not win the support of the United Nations, the African Union, or regional bloc IGAD, the U.S. may impose those sanctions unilaterally, Hushek warned.

South Sudan's conflict began in 2013 as a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar.

The conflict has driven more than 4 million South Sudanese from their homes and according to the U.N., more than half the population, or 7 million people, need humanitarian assistance.

South Sudan is the world’s youngest country.