UNITED NATIONS, --South Sudan's exiled opposition figure Riek Machar "is not dead politically," United Nations peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said on Friday as the country's vice president accused Machar of attempting to overthrow President Salva Kiir in July.

Political rivalry between Kiir and Machar sparked a civil war in 2013 and, while the pair signed a shaky peace deal a year ago, fighting has continued and Machar fled the country after the eruption of violence in July. He is now in Khartoum.

Senior diplomats met to discuss South Sudan on Friday on the sidelines of the annual U.N. gathering of world leaders. The United States, China, Britain and Norway were among those at the meeting hosted by U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson.

"Clearly (Machar) is, I think somebody said in the meeting just now, he is not dead politically by a long way, he's there, I mean he's out of the country, but he does represent a very important element of the South Sudanese community," Ladsous told reporters.

Last month Kiir fired six ministers allied to Machar. A U.N. statement summarizing Friday's meeting stressed the need for inclusivity in the South Sudanese political process.

The United States has said it does not believe that Machar, who was vice president until he fled, should return to his former position in the government given the continuing instability in the country.

During a visit by the U.N. Security Council to South Sudan earlier this month, diplomats said Kiir told them that Machar was welcome to return to the country if he wanted to run for office during elections in 2018.

After Machar fled the country, Kiir replaced him with Taban Deng Gai, who broke ranks with Machar said he was taking over the opposition SPLM-IO. A former minister of mining, Deng Gai was a chief negotiator on behalf of the SPLM-IO in the talks that led to last year's peace deal.

Source: Nam News Network

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