Talks on ending the deadly violence in South Sudan are expected to open Wednesday in Ethiopia, with no signs the fighting is about to ease.
Representatives of South Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar are due to meet. Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn will mediate.
An Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman says the bottom line of the talks is stopping the war and starting a dialogue for lasting peace.
The bloodshed in the world's newest country began earlier this month when President Kiir of the ethnic Dinka tribe accused Machar, an ethnic Nuer, of attempting a coup.
The U.N. says the fighting has killed more than 1,000 and sent tens of thousands of civilians fleeing to safety in neighboring Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda.
Fighting continued Tuesday in the key city of Bor. Rebels say they have captured the town. The government has not commented.
South Sudan became an independent nation when it broke away from Sudan in 2011.
Hussein Mar Nyuot, a member of the rebel delegation to the peace talks, is urging the government to free political detainees. The African Union also is urging President Kiir to free the prisoners and is threatening sanctions against those who incite violence.
OPTIONAL NYUOT SOUNDBITES, IN ENGLISH
"If you keep them in detention and you say you are going for peace, you are not giving a good gesture. So, we urge President Kiir and we are also asking the international community and members of IGAD to put pressure for the release of these detainees so that they can actually attend these reconciliation meetings in Addis Ababa or Nairobi."
"We don't want our country to degenerate into ethnic fighting. We want it to be handled as a political issue to be handled by the government and by the opposition that is fighting. We sit down."