The UN Security Council on Thursday brandished the threat of sanctions against South Sudan government forces and rebels responsible for escalating abuses in a worsening civil war.
In a strongly-worded statement, the 15 Council members "expressed horror and anger" over the killings of hundreds of people last week in the oil town of Bentiu -- ethnic slaughter which UN officials have blamed on rebels.
The Council demanded an end to "all human rights violations and abuses" and said it was ready to "consider appropriate measures against those responsible" -- an allusion to possible sanctions against both sides in a conflict that has killed thousands.
It demanded that the government of President Salva Kiir -- whose forces have been locked in battle for four months with rebels loyal to sacked vice president Riek Machar -- protect civilians and investigate abuse claims.
The Council called on Kiir and Machar to "demonstrate leadership by publicly stating that any and all attacks on civilians are unacceptable," to commit to punishing those responsible for the violence and to return to the negotiating table.
- Rebels say oil fields in reach -
On the ground in South Sudan, the world's youngest nation, the embattled UN mission, UNMISS, condemned "in the strongest possible terms" an attack by unidentified gunmen on a convoy of barges carrying vital food aid.
It said four crew members and peacekeepers were wounded.
Rebels said they were closing in on key oil fields and two state capitals, predicting that government forces would soon fall. AFP