* President Kiir confirms readiness to meet rival
* Kerry visited Juba last week to push for peace
* Ethiopia wants rivals in Addis Ababa on May 9
(Adds comments by Ban Ki-moon about peace talks)
By Andrew Green
JUBA, May 6 U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
said on Tuesday South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar had been
invited to Ethiopia for peace talks and would "try his best" to
go by the end of the week.
Ban, the second world leader to visit Juba in less than a
week to mediate between the warring sides, said he was told by
Machar that his remote location could prevent him reaching Addis
Ababa by May 9, when he and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir
had been asked to arrive.
"I expect the prime minister (of Ethiopia, Hailemariam
Desalegn) will facilitate dialogue between the two leaders," Ban
told a news conference in Juba, after saying Kiir had confirmed
his readiness to meet Machar.
An advisor to Desalegn also said Machar had given his word
to the prime minister that he would attend.
"He is 100 percent willing to come to Addis to discuss
issues of peace, including talks with President Salva Kiir,"
Getachew Reda told Reuters.
The visit by Ban, who met Kiir in the South Sudanese capital
and spoke to Machar by phone, is part of a mounting
international push to stop the increasing ethnic violence that
Washington and regional powers fear could descend into genocide.
"The only viable option is to resolve this issue through
dialogue. There is no military solution," Ban said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who was in Juba on
Friday, secured a commitment by Kiir to meet his rival but
failed to win a similar commitment from Machar. Kerry later
threatened Machar with sanctions if he did not take part.
U.S. and other diplomatic sources told Reuters on Monday
Washington would back up the diplomacy with sanctions on figures
from both sides of the conflict in coming days.
"When it comes to sanctions, that will be decided by the
Security Council," the U.N. chief said when asked about possible
A South Sudanese official said there was no need for
sanctions on the government side, as the president had responded
to international pressure and agreed to meet Machar.
"(The government is) doing precisely what has been asked,"
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mawien Makol Arik told Reuters.
Thousands of civilians have been killed and more than a
million have fled their homes since fighting started in
mid-December between troops loyal to Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and
fighters backing his sacked deputy Machar, a Nuer.
Fighting has largely run along ethnic lines.
Government and rebel negotiators in Ethiopia agreed on
Monday to consider a "month of tranquillity", but rebels and the
army continued to battle for control of the northern oil town of
Bentiu. Aid workers reported no fighting there on Tuesday.
Both sides claimed control of the town, capital of oil
producing Unity state and scene of an ethnic massacre last month
that fuelled fears of a genocide.
(Additional reporting by Aaron Maasho in Addis Ababa; Writing
by Richard Lough and Edmund Blair; Editing by Janet Lawrence)