The peacekeepers patrolled a highway in Unity State and found most villages along the road from Mayom Junction to Pariyang burned or looted. Severe food, water and shelter shortages were also reported to UN mission by local officials, UN spokesman Farhan Haq said on Tuesday.

Peacekeepers are on 24-hour patrols in Juba, the capital, but the situation remains tense there, he added.

UN Mission in South Sudan continues to protect about 62,000 civilians in its bases, including nearly 30,000 at its two Juba bases, Haq said.

Talks in Ethiopia between representatives of South Sudan President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar were to resume on Tuesday.

South Sudan has seen three weeks of violence that Kiir says began as a coup attempt on December 15, though Machar's side denies the allegation.

US Secretary of State John Kerry called Kiir to urge him ‘to use the talks to find a peaceful, democratic way forward’ and said senior members of Machar's faction who are imprisoned need to attend the talks, State Department spokeswoman Jan Psaki said in Washington.

Kerry reiterated that United States will deny support and work to apply international pressure to any elements that use force to seize power from the South Sudan government.

South Sudan has been plagued by ethnic tension and a power struggle within the ruling party that escalated after Kiir dismissed Machar as his vice president in July. The rebels back Machar, who is now a fugitive sought by the military.


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