DUBAI (Reuters) – South Sudan is willing to enter into dialogue with opposition groups seeking a delay in forming a unity government, but it has not yet received such a request, the country’s foreign minister said on Thursday. A unity government is due to be set up on May 12 under a 2018 peace agreement, but former rebel leader Riek Machar told Reuters on April 12 at least a further six months was needed. “If the opposition forces believe that it is not for some reason feasible to start the transitional government by the 12th of May then they will have to formally bring that to our attention and then it can be discussed,” Nhial Deng Nhial told Reuters in an interview in Dubai. Although few diplomats expected the deadline set last September to be met, a delay is likely to cause further unease in the war-ravaged country. About 400,000 people have died and more than a third of the country’s 12 million people have been displaced, sparking Africa’s worst refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Pope Francis hosted South Sudan’s leaders this month where he urged them to commit to forming a unity government in May. “I think the humility that was displayed by the Holy Father should really go a long way to persuade the people of South Sudan, especially the leadership, to continue embracing peace and stability,” Nhial said. Nhial said the opposition forces have not yet contributed to a security force that was to be established under the power sharing deal. He also said there has so far been no reaction to South Sudanese President Salva Kiir’s offer to help mediate a political transition in Sudan after the fall of autocratic president Omar al-Bashir. Bashir had helped mediate last year’s peace deal in South Sudan, which won independence from Sudan in 2011 after decades of conflict. Nhial said he met with U.S. officials during a visit to the U.S. earlier this month. The officials “indicated they are willing to have a more holistic approach to relations between Washington and Juba because relations have tended to be dominated by human rights and humanitiarian issues,” Nhial said. Some officials close to Kiir, who is keen to improve relations with the international community, have come under U.S. sanctions. Forming a unity government was supposed to be one way of improving ties with the U.S. “I think relations between South Sudan and Washington are hopefully on the mend,” Nhial said.