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Bashir, Kiir to Meet as South Sudan Peace Talks Struggle

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has arrived in South Sudan to discuss that nation's ongoing violence, as negotiators for President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar struggle to hold substantive peace talks.

Mr. Bashir made no comment upon his arrival Monday before heading to a meeting with Mr. Kiir.

Sudanese Information Minister Ahmed Bilal told VOA that his country is "very anxious and worried" about the situation, but that he thinks Mr. Bashir can play a role in helping the two sides in South Sudan find a solution.



"We are very keen to reach peace in the south, and we have actually contacts between President Salva [Kiir] and also contacts with Riek Machar. We know the two men very closely. Sudan can be actually a good mediator in solving this problem in the south."



The negotiations to end fighting that began in mid-December were planned to begin in Ethiopia last week, but the delegations have not been able to overcome issues like rebel demands for the release of detained politicians.

South Sudan Information Minister Michael Makuei said Sunday the government will not let the detainees go as part of the talks.



"We are not ready to negotiate on preconditions. This is why we are here. The question of the releases should not be annexed to the successful peace talks. We came here to talk peace without conditions and to come and tell us that 'release these people so that they talk' is a condition and we are not ready to accept any precondition."



The fighting has killed more than 1,000 people, and continued Sunday as government troops worked to reclaim the rebel-held city of Bor.



U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday his government will support those seeking peace, but will work for international pressure against those who use force to gain any advantage. Kerry said negotiations must be serious - not a "gimmick."

The talks in Ethiopia are being mediated by the East African regional bloc IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development).

South Sudan's unrest began when renegade soldiers attacked an army headquarters. President Kiir accused Machar of a coup attempt, which Machar denies.

Witnesses say some of the violence is ethnically motivated, with supporters of Mr. Kiir, a member of the Dinka tribe, and supporters of Machar, from the Nuer tribe, targeting each other.

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