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.
Three children walk through a spontaneous camp for internally displaced persons at the United Nations Mission to South Sudan (UNMISS) base in Juba, Jan. 9, 2014.
People unload the few belongings on Jan. 9, 2014 at Minkammen, South Sudan, that they were able to bring with them to camps for the displaced.
Displaced men recuperate from their injuries as they rest on the floor at a United Nations hospital in Tomping camp, near Juba, Jan. 7, 2014.
A displaced man, undergoing treatments for his injuries, is seen at a United Nations hospital at Tomping camp, near Juba, Jan. 7, 2014.
Soldiers from Rwanda serving under United Nations Mission in South Sudan keep watch from an observatory point at Tomping camp, near Juba, Jan. 7, 2014.
Displaced people wash their clothes in a drainage canal at Tomping camp, near Juba, Jan. 7, 2014.
Displaced people prepare their meals at Tomping camp near Juba, Jan. 7, 2014.
Refugees who fled the recent violence in South Sudan and crossed the border into Uganda, settle in the village of Ochaya, Jan. 7, 2013.
Refugees who fled the recent violence in South Sudan and crossed the border into Uganda rest and await transportation from a transit center in Koboko, Jan. 6, 2014.
Refugees who fled the recent violence in South Sudan and crossed the border into Uganda are seen in Koboko, Jan. 6, 2014.