Kerry urges S. Sudan to form new cabinet quickly, transparently

US Secretary of State John Kerry urged South Sudan President Salva Kiir to form a new government "quickly and transparently," the State Department said Saturday, days after after the president sacked his cabinet.

Kerry, who spoke by telephone with Kiir on Friday, said the new government should be formed in a way that "reflects the diversity of its people."

And he urged the leader "to form a new government quickly and transparently in a manner that respects South Sudan's Transitional Constitution."

Kiir, leader of the world's newest nation, earlier this week sacked vice president Riek Machar, a political rival, and fired all 28 cabinet ministers and their deputies.

A foreign ministry spokesman said later the president was holding consultations before naming a new cabinet, declining to specify how long the meetings would last.

In their conversation, Kerry also encouraged Kiir "to act expeditiously to protect civilians, end human rights violations, and take urgent steps to cease ethnically motivated violence in Jonglei State," the State Department statement said.

"Those responsible for human rights violations and attacks on civilians -- including members of the Sudan People's Liberation Army -- must be held accountable," he said.

"Lifesaving humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the estimated 100,000 civilians affected by the fighting."

Kerry recalled the "historic, peaceful" 2011 referendum that split South Sudan from the north as part of a peace deal that ended a bloody civil war.

But there has been lingering upheaval since the birth of the new nation, amid a series of internal conflicts and continued fighting with Sudan over disputed territories.

"The world is watching to see if South Sudan pursues the path of peace and prosperity, or the tragic path of violence and conflict that has characterized much of its past," he said.

The United States will remain "a steady partner to those who aspire to stand on the side of democracy, justice, respect for human rights," he added.