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South Sudan Government, Rebels to Talks: Fighting Continues

Representatives for South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar have arrived in Ethiopia for talks on ending deadly civil unrest, but violence continues in a key city in South Sudan.

Mr. Kiir and former vice president Machar sent delegates to Addis Ababa on Tuesday to begin negotiations on ending the violence that began earlier this month.

The tribal bloodshed erupted when President Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, accused Machar, an ethnic Nuer, of attempting a coup.

The U.N. says the fighting has left more than 1,000 people dead and displaced tens of thousands.

In spite of an agreement on talks, fighting continues in Bor, the main town in the Jonglei state. Machar and his supporters say fighters loyal to him have recaptured the town. Rebels briefly seized control of Bor earlier this month.

There was no immediate word from the government on whether rebels have overrun the town.

Earlier, Mr. Kiir and Mr. Machar agreed in principle to hold talks. However, the government rejected Machar's conditions, including the release of his political allies who were jailed in the early days of the crisis.

Hussein Mar Nyuot is part of Machar's delegation for the peace talks. At a Tuesday news conference in Kenya, he again urged the government to free the detainees.

"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."

The African Union also urged Mr. Kiir's government to release detained political leaders, and threatened to impose sanctions on those who continue to incite violence.

Nyuot also said Machar's delegation is willing to negotiate in good faith.

"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."

The East African bloc IGAD had set a Tuesday deadline for the two sides to hold face-to-face talks. Reuters news reports IGAD said Tuesday both sides had agreed to a "cessation of hostilities." There was no immediate word on when the cease-fire would take effect.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni visited Mr. Kiir on Monday, and warned Machar to sign a cease-fire deal or face action from its neighbors.

The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders said Monday tens of thousands of South Sudanese have fled Bor since violence broke out there last week between government troops and the Machar-backed force - the so called "White Army."

White Army youths are known for the white powder they use to cover their skin as an insect repellant. Like Machar, they are ethnic Nuers.


(no access South Sudan)

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