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Riek Machar, the South Sudan opposition leader denies coup

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By Agencies

Posted  Wednesday, December 18  2013 at  13:48

In Summary

He blamed Sunday's fighting on a conflict between members of the presidential guard, and said it spread across parts of the capital, Juba.

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Fugitive former South Sudanese vice president Riek Machar has denied government allegations that he tried to stage a coup at the weekend.

In an interview, he denied any link with fighting that began on Sunday.

Mr Machar, who fell out with President Salva Kiir in July, accused him of "inciting tribal and ethnic violence" to cover his own failings.

The UN has said the fighting has claimed hundreds of lives, and warned that it could descend into a civil war.

Mr Machar said on Wednesday: "There was no attempted coup."

He blamed Sunday's fighting on a conflict between members of the presidential guard, and said it spread across parts of the capital, Juba.

He added that government troops used the incident to arrest some of his supporters on Monday, and that he himself escaped.

"Someone wanted to frame me," he said. "I had to flee. They are hunting me down."

The whereabouts of Mr Machar are unclear. He told the BBC he was still in South Sudan and was "not going to leave the country".

Details of the fighting have been sketchy, but a meeting of the UN Security Council in New York on Tuesday was told that the clashes were "apparently largely along ethnic lines".

French UN ambassador Gerard Araud, who holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council, said up to 20,000 people had taken refuge in the UN mission in Juba.

"Some reports are speaking of hundreds of casualties. For the moment we can't confirm this, but in any case it is a heavy toll," Mr Araud told the BBC.

He said the conflict had "the potential of a civil war" between the two main ethnic groups, the Dinka and the Nuer.

The government has denied that there was an ethnic aspect to the conflict.

"If you see the people going with Dr Riek [Machar], some are Dinkas, some are Chol, Nuer and other tribes," Said the governor of Unity State, Simon Kun Pouch.

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