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January 13, 2014

S. Sudan Peace Talks Continue Amid Ongoing Fighting

by VOA News

The warring sides in South Sudan's conflict held more peace talks Monday, as the rebels reported heavy fighting with government forces.

Journalist Marthe van der Wolf, who is at the site of the peace talks in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, reports that the government and rebel delegations have been given an updated cease-fire proposal to consider, and will have face-to-face talks again on Tuesday.

Agreement on the proposed cease-fire has been held up by the government's refusal to release 11 political detainees, as demanded by the rebels.

South Sudan's foreign minister told VOA that officials will expedite "legal processes" against the detainees, who are accused of plotting to overthrow the government.

The remarks from Barnaba Marial Benjamin follow a call from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to release the 11 men.

A rebel general, Lul Ruai Koang, told reporters Monday in Addis Ababa that rebels had repulsed government attacks in two areas and are close to capturing the town of Malakal. There was no independent confirmation of the report.

The United Nations says more than 200,000 South Sudanese have been displaced from their homes since fighting began a month ago.

Army forces loyal to President Salva Kiir are battling soldiers who back former vice president Riek Machar, whom Kiir fired in July.

The fighting has sparked fears of a civil war in the world's newest country, which became independent from Sudan less than three years ago.

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