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US-sanctioned Israeli ex-general denies arming South Sudan groups

The retired Israeli general is accused of arming South Sudan groups [AFP]

Date of publication: 16 December, 2018

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A former Israeli general has denied US claims that he helped arm South Sudan's warring parties.

A former Israeli general accused of using an agricultural firm to sell weapons to South Sudanese armed groups protested his innocence on Sunday, two days after the US slapped sanctions on him and two others.

Retired General Israel Ziv told Israeli Army Radio that US allegations he had armed South Sudanese were based on false information and that he was willing to be investigated by Washington on the charges, which he said were "ludicrous, baseless, completely divorced from reality".

He is accused by the US Treasury of using an agricultural consultancy company to smuggle weapons into the war-torn country.

Ziv has been accused of selling $150 million in weapons to both the Juba government and rebels, despite an arm embargo on the country.

"He (Ziv) has also reportedly planned to organise attacks by mercenaries on South Sudanese oil fields and infrastructure, in an effort to create a problem that only his company and affiliates could solve," a Treasury statement on Friday said, when sanctions were slapped on him and three of his firms.

The arms embargo is aimed at forcing President Salva Kiir to end the war in the country, which could have cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

Ziv said he has played no role in arming groups in the war.

"We have an amazing agriculture project there... that many communities depend on. Tens of thousands of people are employed through this project and it feeds the South Sudan market. So anyone who claims this project is a cover should come see it," he said.

Ziv alleged that the charges against him were politically-motivated and he was willing to cooperate in any investigation.

"This is not the first time the (US) administration has used sanctions to enforce its foreign policy," Ziv said, according to Reuters.

"I am approachable... I want to believe in the decency of the administration. And they are welcome to come, to check, to investigate. We will open up everything for them."

South Sudan's Obac William Olawo and Gregory Vasili were also sanctioned by the US Treasury.

War broke out in South Sudan in 2013 between powerful rival factions, although the divisions also run along tribal lines.

At least 383,000 South Sudanese have died in the war, although a fragile peace agreement was recently put in place.

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