(Fixes typo par 4)
* South Sudan peace talks resume next month
* Conflict brought South Sudan to brink of civil war
* Uganda is member of IGAD, which will monitor ceasefire
By Edmund Blair and Aaron Maasho
ADDIS ABABA, Jan 29 Uganda should start
withdrawing troops from South Sudan, where they have been
backing government forces against rebels, to avoid worsening a
crisis in the world's newest state, major donor Norway said on
The comments were the clearest statement of concern from a
member of the troika of South Sudan's main Western backers about
the impact of Uganda's military presence.
Analysts had worried Kampala's intervention risked turning
the clashes into a regional conflict.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who backed South Sudan's
ruling SPLM in its long conflict with Sudan before independence
in 2011, sent his troops across the border at Juba's invitation
shortly after fighting began in mid-December.
Both South Sudan's government and rebels have agreed to a
ceasefire and shaky peace talks are due to resume in
neighbouring Ethiopia on Feb. 7.
"It is now important that President Museveni of Uganda
starts the process of reducing and later pulling out the Ugandan
troops that are in Juba and surrounding areas," Norwegian
Foreign Minister Borge Brende told Reuters.
"I also appeal to President (Omar Hassan) al-Bashir of Sudan
to refrain from any kind of intervention," he said, noting that
Sudan - which frets about South Sudanese oil fields from which
it derives revenues via pipeline fees - had so far stayed out.
Brende said he had delivered his message to Uganda's foreign
minister on the sidelines of an African Union meeting in Addis
Ababa, and to Sudan on a trip to Khartoum.
Britain, which with Norway and the United States has been
one of South Sudan's main Western sponsors, said Ugandan forces
should act defensively and "de-escalate" the conflict, but has
not specifically called for the troops to start leaving.
Fighting broke out between rival groups in the presidential
guard in South Sudan's capital Juba and quickly spread to
oil-producing areas, largely along ethnic lines.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir accused Riek Machar, the
vice president he sacked in July, of launching a coup.
Machar, who is now in hiding, dismissed the allegation,
saying Kiir had taken advantage of an outbreak of fighting to
round up political rivals.
Uganda's government initially said its troops were sent in
to help stranded Ugandans and to secure Juba's airport and
Kiir's official palace.
Rebels, led by Machar, accused Uganda of launching air
strikes and other assaults against their positions. After
initial denials, Uganda acknowledged taking an active role in
the fighting to help government forces.
"He was requested by Salva Kiir in a difficult moment to
contribute with this support," the Norwegian minister said of
Museveni's actions. "There is now a new political situation
because there is an agreement on the cessation of hostilities."
"We also have to make sure that all the neighbouring
countries play a very constructive role and refrain from any
kind of action that can add to the crisis," he said.
Uganda is a member of IGAD, the regional grouping sponsoring
peace talks in Addis Ababa that led to a cessation of
hostilities deal this month. Sporadic fighting has persisted.
Ethiopia, which currently chairs IGAD, earlier voiced
concerns about Uganda's intervention. Others in the grouping,
which aims to set up a ceasefire monitoring mechanism, have
played down worries about Uganda's role.
Brende said Kiir and Machar must authorise negotiators at
talks to reach a political deal and ensure aid reaches isolated
communities and the more than half a million displaced people.
(Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Richard Lough and Andrew