UNITED NATIONS, Jan 9 (Reuters) - An additional 5,500 U.N. peacekeepers deploying to South Sudan to help protect civilians sheltering at the world body's bases from violence should be operational within two months, U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said on Thursday.
Violence erupted in South Sudan's capital Juba in mid-December and spread to oil-producing regions and beyond, dividing the two-year-old land-locked country along ethnic lines. Some 60,000 civilians are being protected at U.N. bases.
Juba's government forces are battling an armed rebellion by forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar. More than 1,000 people have been killed and more than 230,000 driven from their homes in the world's youngest state.
The U.N. Security Council approved plans on Dec. 24 to almost double the number of U.N. peacekeepers in South Sudan to 12,500 troops and 1,323 police as worsening violence pushes the world's newest state to the verge of civil war.
After briefing the council on the situation in South Sudan on Thursday, Ladsous said the goal was to have the additional peacekeepers on the ground "between four and eight weeks, but our goal is to go as quickly as possible."
One senior Security Council diplomat said on condition of anonymity that the two-month timeline was longer than what U.N. officials had previously communicated to council members.
The additional 5,500 peacekeeping troops and 423 police are being drawn from nearby U.N. and African Union missions in Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Liberia, and the Sudanese regions of Darfur and Abyei, the United Nations said.
U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq also said on Thursday that 350 Nepalese peacekeepers would be transferred to South Sudan from the U.N. mission in Haiti, while a further 500 troops would come directly from Nepal. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by David Gregorio)