Britons urged to flee South Sudan

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William Hague has called on the South Sudanese government to work for peace as he warned Britons to flee the increasingly "dangerous" troubled African state.

The Foreign Secretary said he remains "very concerned" about the growing violence in the country and today talked to his counterpart, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, to push for a political solution.

Fighting has spread through the newly-formed East African state, which gained its independence in 2011, following a reported coup attempt in the capital last weekend.

A final plane is being sent to the capital city of Juba tomorrow to evacuate British nationals and officials have warned that the government will struggle to help anyone who chooses to stay behind.

British military transport planes have been used to bring home two groups over recent days. A United States rescue plane was hit by incoming fire leaving three American service personnel wounded.

Mr Hague said: "I remain very concerned at the situation in South Sudan. Increased political polarisation and inter-communal tensions are fuelling a dangerous situation. It is vital that all leaders urge restraint on their supporters and commit to a political resolution of their differences. South Sudan has a legitimate, democratically elected government. Resorting to military means to further political rivalries is a betrayal of the hopes on which the new state of South Sudan was founded.

"I have underlined my concerns with the South Sudanese foreign minister today and urged his government to work for political reconciliation on the basis of the proposals put forward by regional foreign ministers during their visit to Juba on 20-21 December. He has reassured me of the government's openness to dialogue without preconditions.

"I thanked minister Marial Benjamin for the assistance that the South Sudanese authorities and he personally have given to ensure the smooth turn-around of our evacuation flights this week. I encourage any remaining British nationals to take advantage of the third flight that we are making available on 23 December."

The United Nations has estimated that up to 500 people have been killed in fighting between rival factions following a coup attempt against the president by soldiers loyal to his former deputy.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, and the Vatican called for the nation's weak and poor to be "spared the trauma of conflict".

In a joint statement they said: "On behalf of our churches we appeal to the leaders in South Sudan to lay down their weapons and co-operate in seeking peace through dialogue and negotiation. As we approach the celebration of the birth of our Saviour, the Prince of Peace, this is a time for the vulnerable, the weak and the poor to be spared the trauma of civil conflict.

"We bear in mind the call of the Holy Father for peace in 2014, especially because in God's design at creation, we are all brothers, the sons and daughters of the one God and Father.

"Let us not yield to fratricidal tendencies in the name of our ethnic differences (which is what God created us to be). With all Christians, we pray for peace in South Sudan. We pray that all of you in South Sudan may become instruments of peace.

"We issue this appeal together, knowing that Christian leaders in South Sudan are working in unity and courage of faith for peace. "

Any Britons in South Sudan wanting to leave on the flight tomorrow should contact the FCO as soon as possible on +44 207 008 1500 or by email at crisis@fco.gsi.gov.uk.

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