JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN —
The failure of South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar to return Tuesday to Juba, the second delay this week, is putting a peace deal at risk, according to international monitors.
Machar was expected to arrive in the capital to form a transitional government with President Salva Kiir, following two and a half years of war. But last-minute disputes over the number of troops and weapons the rebels can bring into the capital delayed his return.
The government says it will allow Machar’s top general into Juba with 195 troops, a number the rebels accepted.
But the government says they can only bring rifles, while the rebels want to bring rocket-propelled grenade launchers and machine guns.
The international body overseeing the peace process has called an emergency meeting Thursday between government and rebel officials in hopes of resolving the situation.
US expresses disappointment
Coming out of a special U.N. Security Council session Tuesday, American Ambassador David Pressman said the U.S. is "extremely disappointed Machar did not fulfill his commitment to return to Juba."
Washington is a key supporter of the deal for Kiir and Machar to form a transitional government.
United Nations peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said Machar's failure to show up means "there is no confidence yet between the two parties."
Kiir and Machar signed the peace deal in August under heavy international pressure, but fighting has continued.
The war has killed tens of thousands, many of them civilians, and has displaced more than 2.3 million people. Aid agencies have warned that the conflict and ongoing food shortages have the country at the edge of humanitarian catastrophe.