WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is not taking any offensive military actions with the goal of destabilizing South Sudan, and is only sending a small contingent to assist its embassy in the country, which has been gripped by violence between rival troops, the State Department said on Sunday.
The United States wants to reassure the people and the government of South Sudan that it has no plans to target any government or military leaders or import special military equipment with the goal of destabilizing the nation, State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner in a statement.
"Any suggestion that the United States has done so or will do so is false, baseless, and not in the interest of peace in South Sudan," he also said.
President Barack Obama on Friday said he would deploy up to 200 U.S. troops equipped with combat equipment to South Sudan to protect U.S. citizens and the embassy in Juba, with troops initially stationed in neighboring Uganda.
Forces loyal to South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar engaged in five days of street battles with anti-aircraft guns, attack helicopters and tanks until a ceasefire was reached on Monday.
The fighting prompted the United Nations and some countries to withdraw non-essential personnel.
To help keep its embassy open and help non-emergency workers to depart, the United States sent military personnel to Juba on July 12, Toner said.
"Citizens of Juba can expect to see a rotation in military personnel during the week of July 18," he said. "This rotation of troops is to replace not reinforce the number of military personnel. All of the additional troops will return home when the need for additional security no longer exists."
(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Mary Milliken)